Pursuits of Happiness
During the '30s and '40s, Hollywood produced a genre of madcap comedies that emphasized reuniting the central couple after divorce or separation. Their female protagonists were strong, independent, and sophisticated. Here, Stanley Cavell names this new genre of American film-"the comedy of remarriage"-and examines seven classic movies for their cinematic…
Why read it?
2 authors picked Pursuits of Happiness as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
Any marriage can fall apart. We can become lost to each other. But we can also re-find each other.
In many ways, a marriage is constantly a remarriage. The philosopher Stanley Cavell, my Ph.D. advisor at Harvard, wrote a brilliant book about what he calls the remarriage comedies of the late 30s and early 40s.
The films are great on their own—The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth, etc—, but their power and wisdom becomes part of a profound philosophical conversation through Cavell’s inquiry and voice. My own book explores love and marriage in resonant, but different ways.
Cavell writes like no one else, and it took me some time before I could catch on, initially through his writing about Wittgenstein. I first heard his name years earlier, from a fellow American studying with me at Oxford. We were both attending what proved to be an intolerably boring and disheartening course on aesthetics. Having a cup of tea after abandoning the course, my new friend told me that his teacher at Harvard, Stanley Cavell, offered a brighter, more hopeful and imaginative version of what might be called aesthetics than the one we were presented with. He was right,…
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