A Primer in Positive Psychology

Oxford University Press
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Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between. It is a newly-christened approach within psychology that takes seriously the examination of that which makes life most worth living. Everyone's life has peaks and valleys, and positive psychology does not deny the valleys. Its signature premise is more nuanced, but nonetheless important: what is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and, therefore, deserves equal attention from psychologists. Positive psychology as an explicit perspective has existed only since 1998, but enough relevant theory and research now exist to fill a textbook suitable for a semester-long college course. A Primer in Positive Psychology is thoroughly grounded in scientific research and covers major topics of concern to the field: positive experiences such as pleasure and flow; positive traits such as character strengths, values, and talents; and the social institutions that enable these subjects as well as what recent research might contribute to this knowledge. Every chapter contains exercises that illustrate positive psychology, a glossary, suggestions of articles and books for further reading, and lists of films, websites, and popular songs that embody chapter themes. A comprehensive overview of positive psychology by one of the acknowledged leaders in the field, this textbook provides students with a thorough introduction to an important area of psychology.
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About the author

Christopher Peterson has been at the University of Michigan since 1986. He is Professor of Psychology, the former director of clinical training, and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, awarded in recognition of his accomplishments as an undergraduate instructor. Peterson is a member of the Positive Psychology Steering Committee, a consulting editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology, and a Templeton Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center. He took the lead in creating the Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths, the most ambitious research project to date explicitly undertaken from a positive psychology perspective. Co-author of Character Strengths and Virtues (OUP 2004), Peterson is among the world's 100 most-frequently cited psychologists during the past 20 years and has long-standing research interests in optimism, health, character, and well-being.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jul 27, 2006
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9780199884940
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Social Psychology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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When we think of psychology, we think of a field dedicated to understanding and curing the dark side of life--addictions, phobias, compulsions, anxieties, and on and on. But there is a field of psychology that looks at the bright side, that considers seriously these questions: What makes life most worth living? And how can we pursue a good life? That field is called, not surprisingly, positive psychology. In Pursuing the Good Life, one of the founders of positive psychology, Christopher Peterson, offers one hundred bite-sized reflections exploring the many sides of this exciting new field. With the humor, warmth, and wisdom that has made him an award-winning teacher, Peterson takes readers on a lively tour of the sunny side of the psychological street. What are the roles played by positive emotions and happiness, by strengths of character, by optimism, and by good relationships with others? How can we pursue the good life in families, workplaces, schools, and sports, no matter who we are or where we live? With titles such as "You May Now Kiss the Bride--And Would You Like Fries With That?" and "How Can You Tell If Someone from France is Happy?" Peterson good-humoredly explores these questions and many others, including such diverse topics as the difference between employment and work, the value of doing the right thing, and why books matter, among other subjects. Throughout, Peterson shows that happiness is not simply the result of a fortunate spin of the genetic wheel. There are things that people can learn to do to lead happier lives. Pursuing the Good Life is both an enjoyable read and an invaluable guide to making the good life part of your everyday existence.
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The refusal to recognize kinship relations among slaves, interracial couples, and same-sex partners is steeped in historical and cultural taboos. In Kindred Specters, Christopher Peterson explores the ways in which non-normative relationships bear the stigma of death that American culture vehemently denies.

 

Probing Derrida’s notion of spectrality as well as Orlando Patterson’s concept of “social death,” Peterson examines how death, mourning, and violence condition all kinship relations. Through Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, Peterson lays bare concepts of self-possession and dispossession, freedom and slavery. He reads Toni Morrison’s Beloved against theoretical and historical accounts of ethics, kinship, and violence in order to ask what it means to claim one’s kin as property. Using William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! he considers the political and ethical implications of comparing bans on miscegenation and gay marriage.

 

Tracing the connections between kinship and mourning in American literature and culture, Peterson demonstrates how racial, sexual, and gender minorities often resist their social death by adopting patterns of affinity that are strikingly similar to those that govern normative relationships. He concludes that socially dead “others” can be reanimated only if we avow the mortality and mourning that lie at the root of all kinship relations.

 

Christopher Peterson is visiting assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.

According to scholars of the nonhuman turn, the scandal of theory lies in its failure to decenter the human. The real scandal, however, is that we keep trying.

The human has become a conspicuous blind spot for many theorists seeking to extend hospitality to animals, plants, and even insentient things. The displacement of the human is essential and urgent, yet given the humanist presumption that animals lack a number of allegedly unique human capacities, such as language, reason, and awareness of mortality, we ought to remain cautious about laying claim to any power to eradicate anthropocentrism altogether. Such a power risks becoming yet another self-accredited capacity thanks to which the human reaffirms its sovereignty through its supposed erasure.

Monkey Trouble argues that the turn toward immanence in contemporary posthumanism promotes a cosmocracy that absolves one from engaging in those discriminatory decisions that condition hospitality as such. Engaging with recent theoretical developments in speculative realism and object-oriented ontology, as well as ape and parrot language studies, the book offers close readings of literary works by J.M. Coetzee, Charles Chesnutt, and Walt Whitman and films by Alfonso Cuarón and Lars von Trier.

Anthropocentrism, Peterson argues, cannot be displaced through a logic of reversal that elevates immanence above transcendence, horizontality over verticality. This decentering must cultivate instead a human/nonhuman relationality that affirms the immanent transcendency spawned by our phantasmatic humanness.

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