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Cardinal Courses
Courses for credit

The Cult of Happiness: Pursuing the Good Life in America and China

Quarter-long course
What is happiness? Might writing your own (mock) obituary help you find happiness? What else can you do to be happy? What has happiness to do with the good life? Does happiness define the meaning and purpose of life for people everywhere? In this course, we combine reading, discussion, group activity, and fieldtrip to figure out, collectively over the course of 2.5 weeks, what happiness is all about. We consider what philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, writers, and artists have to say about happiness and reflect on its relationship to wealth, wisdom, health, love, pleasure, justice, community, spirituality, and mortality. We give equal weight to Chinese and Western sources and interrogate deeply held assumptions through the lens of cross-cultural inquiry. During the summer, students read a novel and a popular treatise. In September, we review these texts and place them alongside scholarly works, movies, short fiction, and social commentary as we interrogate the chimera of happiness. In addition, we will experiment with meditation, short-form life writing (including mock obituaries!), and service-learning. We meet daily for lectures and seminar discussion. Students submit three short reflective papers and three online commentaries, and in small groups make an oral presentation and do a creative exercise.





September 2, 2024 | 12:00 AM

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Cardinal Service Notation
Students who complete three Cardinal Courses are eligible for the Cardinal Service transcript notation. Learn more

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