This book offers the analysis of a selection of North American texts that dismantle and resist normative frames through the resignification of concepts such as unhappiness, precarity, failure, and vulnerability. The chapters bring to the fore how those potentially negative elements can be refigured as ambivalent sites of resistance and social bonding. Following Sara Ahmed’s rereading of happiness, other authors such as Judith Butler, Wendy Brown, Jack Halberstam, Lauren Berlant, or Henry Giroux are mobilized to interrogate films, memoirs, and novels that deal with precarity, alienation, and inequality. The monograph contributes to enlarging the archives of unhappiness by changing the focus from prescribed norms and happy endings to unruly practices and unhappy beginnings. As the different contributors show, unhappiness, precarity, vulnerability, or failure can be harnessed to illuminate ways of navigating the world and framing society that do not necessarily conform to the script of happiness—whatever that means.
List of Contributors
An Approach to Unhappy Beginnings.
Isabel González-Díaz and Fabián Orán-Llarena
1. Nomadland: A Narrative of Class and Age Vulnerability in the 21st Century.
2. “They endured”: Precarity, Vulnerability, and Resistance in the Works of Jesmyn Ward.
3. Happy Endings and Unhappy Beginnings: Representing Precarity and Vulnerability in Recessionary Comedies.
4. The Road to Serfdom: The (Unhappy) Neoliberal Workplace in The Assistant.
5. Disaffected Archives: Jacqueline Woodson’s Cruel Attachments in Red at the Bone. Paula Barba Guerrero
6. The (Un)happiness of Urban Indigeneity in Tommy Orange’s There There.
7. Trans-forming Transness: The Failed Dissident Body as (Non)Human Political Possibility in Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars.
Juan Carlos Hidalgo-Ciudad
8. Of Morrissey and Other Antisocial Icons: Unhappiness and Failure in Elliott DeLine’s Refuse.
9. Stigma, Vulnerability, Unhappiness, and Abjection: How Angels in America Reconstructs AIDS Politics of Silence.
10. Powers of Failure: The Catcher in the Rye Against Early Neoliberal Rationality.
Julia Rojo de Castro
Juan A. Tarancón
12. Affect Theory and Life Narratives: Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali’s Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir and Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir.
13. Run, Rabbits, Run: Post-Racialism, Modern Slavery, and Slow Violence in Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
Víctor Junco Ezquerra
14. Cold Feelings: Apathy, Difference, and Withdrawal in Herman Melville’s White-Jacket. Arturo Corujo
This book has enormous potential to contribute to deconstructing racial, gender, class, and physical disabilities biases through literary and cultural studies criticism. It shows a unique perspective in approaching themes of unhappiness and failure. As the contributions in the monograph stress, reading stories of “failure” and “unhappiness” as characters’ rebellion against the harshness and elitism of all sorts of normative frames is more than a way to unmask the unjust social practices: it can also open constructive debates necessary for redefining such social practices.
Nadira Puškar Mustafić, Assistant Professor, International University of Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
This monograph offers an important contribution to contemporary theories within the field of affect studies as it proposes an innovative methodology for the analysis of North American texts that challenge the normative concept of happiness. By focusing on a heterogeneous set of narratives of unhappiness, the monograph aims at questioning forms of oppression in North America, which enriches the field of affect theory.
Rocío Carrasco Carrasco, Dr Philol at the Department of English, University of Huelva, Spain