Kuby, William, 1982-; Palmer, Heather
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
While happiness may be something seemingly everyone, or most, people wish for, what happiness consists of, how to obtain it, and how to determine if/when one is truly happy remains elusive. One may view happiness as a simple wish, but then arises the question: what exactly does one wish for in wishing for happiness? Or, moreover, what may a society wish for or wish to ensure through the imperative to be happy? My thesis will primarily involve an interpretation of philosopher Sara Ahmed’s book The Promise of Happiness, in which she offers a critique of “happiness,” or, moreover, the cultural imperative to be happy. Through consideration of Ahmed’s descriptions of “affect” and “happy objects,” my work will explore how the imperative to be happy or to perform happiness can cover over histories of struggle and oppression and fail to include those who may not be made easily happy by conventional forms of happiness, on the basis of, for example, their gender or race/ethnicity. Lastly, my work, through applying Ahmed’s concepts of “affect” and “affect aliens” to Albert Camus’ The Stranger and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, will examine the mother figure and the family as a happy object – and as a representation of cultural convention – in order to further explore how cultural convention is often protected by the performance of happiness or by being labeled a “happiness cause,” to the detriment of those who live outside of what’s deemed “normal” or “acceptable.”
A sincere thanks to my thesis director, Dr. Talia Welsh, whose incredible generosity and support made this project not only possible but a pleasure. I also want to thank Dr. William Kuby and Dr. Heather Palmer for their thoughtful contributions and guidance along the way. To my family and friends and all those who continue to not only support but inspire me, thank you.
B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Ahmed, Sara, 1969---Criticism and interpretation; Camus, Albert, 1913-1960--Criticism and interpretation; Plath, Sylvia--Criticism and interpretation
Hibbs, Meaghan, "Portraits of happiness (The performance of happiness: a cultural critique)" (2023). Honors Theses.