America considers the pursuit of happiness an inalienable right. But where is this pursuit taking us? How valuable is positive thinking? In arts, melancholia has long been a source of inspiration.
Specialist of Ancient Greece Barbara Cassin will give a philosophical point of view on the topic, and historian of the French Revolution Sophie Wahnich will bring some insight on the conditions of happiness. They will be discussing with co-authors of 13 Words, Lemony Snicket's Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, who is also a New Yorker cover artist and author of the acclaimed book, And the Pursuit of Happiness.
Barbara Cassin is head of research at the CNRS, where she has directed an international research team.
Cassin published a Vocabulaire Européen des Philosophies, Dictionnaire des Intraduisibles (European Vocabulary of Philosophies, Dictionnary of the Untranslatable).
She also worked on contemporary rhetorical and political issues, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, to experiment in concreto what kind of things words can do in our days. Her latest book is Heidegger. Les Femmes, le nazisme et la philosophie.
Daniel Handler is a writer of books in which you might be interested, including more recently, We Are Pirates, and Hurry Up and Wait, co-authored with Maira Kalman. His Believer column, “What the Swedes Read,” about reading one book by each Nobel Laureate, appears in each issue. This fall appears the final installment of Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions series. Its sequel, A Series of Unfortunate Events, is currently being developed by Netflix as an original series.
Maira Kalman is an award-winning artist who has illustrated numerous covers for The New Yorker and has written and illustrated a dozen children's books.
Her articles and illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Interview, and many other publications. Now a teacher of graduate design at the School of Visual Arts, she has designed products for the Museum of Modern Art and sets for Mark Morris Dance Group.
Her first online column for the Opinion section of The New York Times, "The Principles of Uncertainty," ran from May of 2006 to April of 2007. It was followed by her latest book, And the Pursuit of Happiness, a yearlong investigation of democracy, inspired by the 2008 presidential elections.
Sophie Wahnich is a historian of the French Revolution interested in the relationship between emotions, feelings and politics. She is a CNRS head of Research at the Transdisciplinary Institute of Contemporary Anthropology (EHESS).
Her method is to articulate areas that are not ususally connected: the history of politics, the analysis of political sovereignty in practice and the role of violence, the anthropology of rituals, revenge, or the sacred.
To achieve what she calls a "desecration" of knowledge, she wants to make visible, in the writing of history, a sensitive dimension that postulates shared political values, thus presenting history both as an historical science and as a practice of political conscience. Her latest book is Les Émotions, la Révolution française et le présent.