Biographical Information

Vivasvan Soni,Associate Professor of English Literature at Northwestern University

Vivasvan Soni, Associate Professor of English Literature at Northwestern University

Vivasvan Soni (Ph.D. Duke University, 2000) studies and teaches eighteenth-century British literature, as well as critical and literary theory. His book, Mourning Happiness: Narrative and the Politics of Modernity, was published by Cornell University Press in 2010 and was the recipient of the Modern Language Association’s eighteenth annual Prize for a First Book. In it, he traces the narrative transformations in the eighteenth-century which produce a modern conception of happiness, arguing that these transformations result in the erasure of happiness as a guiding idea in politics. He discovers in classical ideas of happiness, particularly Solon’s proverb “Call no man happy until he is dead,” the outlines of a concept of happiness that might sustain a utopian politics. In their citation for Soni’s book, the MLA prize committee noted that “Mourning Happiness powerfully transcends the usual field limitations of academic scholarship, making a compelling case for how an ancient Greek construal of happiness could reawaken the radical force of that denuded concept in our own present.… This provocative study affirms the importance of narrative form to one of our most upheld and yet least examined ideals.”

Paper: In Search of Aesthetic Judgment: Shaftesbury’s “Sensus Communis” and “Soliloquy”