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Against Happiness

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
ISBN: 9781429944212
Size: 19.18 MB
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Americans are addicted to happiness. When we're not popping pills, we leaf through scientific studies that take for granted our quest for happiness, or read self-help books by everyone from armchair philosophers and clinical psychologists to the Dalai Lama on how to achieve a trouble-free life: Stumbling on Happiness; Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment; The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. The titles themselves draw a stark portrait of the war on melancholy. More than any other generation, Americans of today believe in the transformative power of positive thinking. But who says we're supposed to be happy? Where does it say that in the Bible, or in the Constitution? In Against Happiness, the scholar Eric G. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. Francisco Goya, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Abraham Lincoln were all confirmed melancholics. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let's embrace our depressive sides as the wellspring of creativity. What most people take for contentment, Wilson argues, is living death, and what the majority takes for depression is a vital force. In Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, Wilson suggests it would be better to relish the blues that make humans people.

Against Happiness

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
ISBN: 9780374531669
Size: 36.24 MB
Format: PDF, Kindle
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We are addicted to happiness. More than any other generation, Americans today believe in the power of positive thinking. But who says we’re supposed to be happy? In Against Happiness, the scholar Eric G. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let’s embrace our depressive side as the wellspring of creativity. It’s time to throw off the shackles of positivity and relish the blues thatmake us human.

Everyone Loves A Good Train Wreck

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
ISBN: 1429969482
Size: 78.82 MB
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Why can't we look away? Whether we admit it or not, we're fascinated by evil. Dark fantasies, morbid curiosities, Schadenfreude: As conventional wisdom has it, these are the symptoms of our wicked side, and we succumb to them at our own peril. But we're still compelled to look whenever we pass a grisly accident on the highway, and there's no slaking our thirst for gory entertainments like horror movies and police procedurals. What makes these spectacles so irresistible? In Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, the scholar Eric G. Wilson sets out to discover the source of our attraction to the caustic, drawing on the findings of biologists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, theologians, and artists. A professor of English literature and a lifelong student of the macabre, Wilson believes there's something nourishing in darkness. "To repress death is to lose the feeling of life," he writes. "A closeness to death discloses our most fertile energies." His examples are legion, and startling in their diversity. Citing everything from elephant graveyards and Susan Sontag's On Photography to the Tiger Woods sex scandal and Steel Magnolias, Wilson finds heartening truths wherever he confronts death. In Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, the perverse is never far from the sublime. The result is a powerful and delightfully provocative defense of what it means to be human—for better and for worse.

Keep It Fake

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
ISBN: 0374709475
Size: 47.51 MB
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Shoot straight from the hip. Tell it like it is. Keep it real. We love these commands, especially in America, because they appeal to what we want to believe: that there's an authentic self to which we can be true. But while we mock Tricky Dick and Slick Willie, we're inventing identities on Facebook, paying thousands for plastic surgeries, and tuning in to news that simply verifies our opinions. Reality bites, after all, and becoming disillusioned is a downer. In his new book Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life, Eric G. Wilson investigates this phenomenon. Hedraws on neuroscience, psychology, sociology, philosophy, art, film, literature, and his own life to explore the possibility that there's no such thing as unwavering reality. Whether our left brains are shaping the raw data of our right into fabulous stories or we're so saturated by society's conventions that we're always acting out prefab scripts, we can't help but be phony. But is that really so bad? We're used to being scolded for being fake, but Wilson doesn't scold--because he doesn't think we need to be reprimanded. Our ability to remake ourselves into the people we want to be, or at least remake ourselves to look like the people we want to be, is in fact a magical process that can be liberating in its own way. Because if we're all a bunch of fakes, shouldn't we embrace that? And if everything really is fake, then doesn't the fake become real--really? In lively prose--honest, provocative, witty, wide-ranging (as likely to riff on Bill Murray as to contemplate Plato)--Keep It Fake answers these questions, uncovering bracing truths about what it means to be human and helping us turn our necessary lying into artful living.

The Mercy Of Eternity

Author: Eric Wilson
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
ISBN: 0810126850
Size: 57.13 MB
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In his best-selling book Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, Eric G. Wilson challenged our culture’s blindly insistent pursuit of happiness at all costs. In his harrowing yet ultimately hopeful memoir, The Mercy of Eternity, the author turns an unsparing eye on his own continuing struggle with bipolar depression and finds, within the very illness that causes so much suffering, the resources for hope, forgiveness, and love. As a bright student-athlete on his way to West Point, Eric Wilson seemed to be well on the way to a fulfilling life. Yet he was haunted by overwhelming feelings of his deep insignificance. As he grew older, the traditional means of fulfillment—marriage and professional success—did nothing to assuage the descents into darkness and destructive behavior.Therapy and medication have offered some relief, but the birth of his daughter ultimately forces his hand. In some ways, the answer has been in front of him the whole time, for English professor Wilson finds in the literature of Coleridge, Blake, and others the lessons that depression might teach. When he comes upon “negative theology”—the school of thought that finds God in the “dark night of the soul”—Wilson discovers the framework for a radical call to forgive depression. Only by forgiving this capricious, impersonal force is Wilson able to find the grace to move beyond the cycles of destructive self-absorption.Wilson admits that he continues to struggle, but in facing his depression instead of trying to escape it, he finds wisdom and grace. Beautifully and accessibly written, The Mercy of Eternity is a brief yet profound meditation on the largest question of life.

Obsession

Author: Lennard J. Davis
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 0226137791
Size: 72.65 MB
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We live in an age of obsession. Not only are we hopelessly devoted to our work, strangely addicted to our favorite television shows, and desperately impassioned about our cars, we admire obsession in others: we demand that lovers be infatuated with one another in films, we respond to the passion of single-minded musicians, we cheer on driven athletes. To be obsessive is to be American; to be obsessive is to be modern. But obsession is not only a phenomenon of modern existence: it is a medical category—both a pathology and a goal. Behind this paradox lies a fascinating history, which Lennard J. Davis tells in Obsession. Beginning with the roots of the disease in demonic possession and its secular successors, Davis traces the evolution of obsessive behavior from a social and religious fact of life into a medical and psychiatric problem. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, no variety of obsession eludes Davis’s graceful analysis.

How To Make A Soul

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
ISBN: 0810131951
Size: 51.89 MB
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In this innovative hybrid of biography, memoir, and criticism, Eric G. Wilson describes how John Keats gave him solace during a bout of mental illness in spring 2012. While on a tour of the principal sites in Keats’s life—ranging from his London medical school to the small room in Rome where he died—Wilson discovered analogies between the poet’s troubles and his own. He was most struck by Keats’s enlivening vision of the soul. For Keats, we don’t possess but rather make a soul. We do this by imaginatively transforming our suffering into empathy toward humans and nature alike. Tracking this idea in Keats’s tumultuous yet exhilarating life and work, Wilson struggles to envision his depression anew, desperate to overcome the apathy alienating him from his family. How to Make a Soul offers fresh perspectives on Keats’s pragmatism, irony, comedy, ethics, and aesthetics, but is above all a lyrical celebration of those galvanizing instances when life springs into art.

Secret Cinema

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
ISBN:
Size: 75.87 MB
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In the last twenty years or so, numerous mainstream movies have drawn from the ideas and images of ancient thought to address the collapse of appearance and reality. These films have consistently featured the Gnostic currents that emerged from Plato: not only Gnosticism itself but also Cabbala and alchemy. Despite important differences, these traditions have provided filmmakers with ready-made ruminations on the relationship between surface and depth as well as with engaging plot lines and striking scenes. In films like The Matrix (1999) and The Truman Show (1998), Gnostic myths have offered speculations on the real as well as conspiracy theories. The Cabbalistic motif of golem-making has provided such movies as A.I. (2001) and Blade Runner (1982) with mediations on the human and with parables of machines yearning for life. Pictures like Dead Man (1996) and Altered States (1980) have drawn on alchemical symbols to explore the possibilities of transmutation and to feature stories of the dead rising to life. Recent commercial Gnostic films are meditations on the conundrums of the post-modern age and the timeless soul. These pictures constitute archetypal sites for sacred contemplation. They create spaces akin to the caves of Eleusis or Lascaux, chambers where habits are annihilated and the ego is shattered. Maybe this spiritual attraction is the secret reason behind the recent abundance of Gnostic films. If so, then the dream factory is betraying its purpose. It is negating its deceptions and sales in the name of a bewildering reality that cannot be found. Secret Cinema explores these possibilities through engaging in three related activities. One, the book establishes the theoretical foundations and implications of the genre of Gnostic cinema. It develops these theoretical elements in the contexts of Gnosticism and the esoteric traditions emerging from it, Cabbala and alchemy. Two, in undertaking this work, Wilson considers several collateral issues. The book discusses the functions of genre, the relationships between cinema and psychology, the connections between the moving image and sacred power, the role of the cinematographic apparatus, and the romance of film. Three, the book is a broad meditation on the seductions of cinema. It is attuned to material attractions of the movies, those gorgeous lights and lurid shadows, but also the film's spiritual invitations, the gaps between the pictures, the empty spaces at the heart of life.

My Business Is To Create

Author: Eric G. Wilson
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
ISBN: 1587299917
Size: 78.99 MB
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For William Blake, living is creating, conforming is death, and “the imagination . . . is the Human Existence itself.” But why are imagination and creation—so vital for Blake—essential for becoming human? And what is imagination? What is creation? How do we create? Blake had answers for these questions, both in word and in deed, answers that serve as potent teachings for aspiring writers and accomplished ones alike. Eric G. Wilson’s My Business Is to Create emulates Blake, presenting the great figure’s theory of creativity as well as the practices it implies. In both his life and his art, Blake provided a powerful example of creativity at any cost—in the face of misunderstanding, neglect, loneliness, poverty, even accusations of insanity. Just as Los cries out in Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, “I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's; / I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create,” generations of writers and artists as diverse as John Ruskin, William Butler Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, Philip K. Dick, songwriter Patti Smith, the avant-garde filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and the underground comic-book artist R. Crumb have taken Blake’s creed as inspiration. Unwilling to cede his vision, Blake did more than simply produce iconoclastic poems and paintings; he also cleared a path toward spiritual and ethical enlightenment. To fashion powerful art is to realize the God within and thus to feel connected with enduring vitality and abundant generosity. This is Blake’s everlasting gospel, distilled here in an artist’s handbook of interest to scholars, writing teachers, and those who have made writing their way of life. My Business Is to Create is indispensable for all serious artists who want to transform their lives into art and make their art more alive.