The Declaration of Independence claims that individuals need liberty to pursue happiness, Dr. Amato points out, but our liberal theory provides insufficient guidance about “what” happiness is. She also finds that while “happiness studies” offer insights into what makes people happy, happiness policy often risks becoming doctrinaire. Her illuminating and engaging case studies of four American novelists find surer guides in American literature to the pursuit of happiness. Tom Wolfe, Walker Percy, Edith Wharton, and Nathaniel Hawthorne write “with a critical and friendly eye to the shortcomings of pursuing happiness in a liberal nation,” while they “point us toward friendship as our greatest resource to guide us towards happiness.”
Dr. Amato’s book appears in Lexington’s new series in “Politics, Literature, and Film,” which takes an interdisciplinary approach to the intersection of politics with literature and/or film, focuses on any period from antiquity to the present, and welcomes contributions from the social sciences and the humanities.
Dr. Amato is an assistant professor of political science at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. She has also held a postdoctoral position at Michigan State University. She has published articles on Walker Percy (in A Political Companion to Walker Percy, the University of Kentucky Press) and on Tom Wolfe (Perspectives on Political Science).