Course by Prof. Jacob L. Mackey
This course explores some ways that people have historically confronted the sort of ressentiment—“a generalized feeling of resentment and often hostility harbored by one individual or group against another”—that pervades our cultural discourse, wracks our political life, and makes us miserable as individuals. In the first part of the course, we closely read the Roman playwright Terence, the poets Catullus, Horace, and Sulpicia, the historian Livy, and the philosophers Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. The second part focuses on the classically-influenced cultural critic Albert Murray (1916-2013) and his intellectual milieu, including his friend Ralph Ellison (1913-1994), and two of his literary predecessors, Frederick Douglass (1817/18-1895) and Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). We investigate the programs that these authors, all of whom lived through times of social and personal turmoil, proposed for avoiding ressentiment and affirming life, thereby remaining centered in a sense of their own dignity despite the world’s insults and injuries, and cultivating a feeling of gratitude for the blessings that were intermingled with their tribulations.
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