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Spring 2024


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New in The Atlantic
A Review of Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History

In a recent review for The Atlantic, Ian Beacock discusses Timothy Hampton’s latest book, Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below:

“When it comes to moving votes and consuming public attention, the strongest and most negative emotions come to mind: anger, hatred, fear, resentment. But Timothy Hampton’s lively new cultural history of cheerfulness is a convincing argument that modest feelings matter too—even (or especially) as democracy shrivels and the planet overheats. Cheer, which Hampton describes as a ‘temporary lightness, a moderate uptick in mood,’ turns out to have a captivating backstory; it’s helped people build communities, muddle through, and get ahead since at least the Middle Ages.

Hampton would like us to see cheerfulness as a rich moral sentiment, not just a fleeting psychological gimmick. Yet what he has really done, brilliantly if inadvertently, is reveal cheer’s shadow side: the way it lures us into valuing surfaces over substance, the peculiar degree to which it can be conjured and wielded at will, and, ultimately, how it so handily serves and protects those with power.”