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Regret : The Persistence of the Possible

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"We are a people who do not want to keep much of the past in our heads, " Lillian Hellman once wrote. "It is considered unhealthy in America to remember mistakes, neurotic to think about them, psychotic to dwell upon them." Yet who in their lifetime has never regretted a lost love, a missed opportunity, a path not taken? Although poets and novelists have long probed the complexities of regret, little has been written from a scholarly perspective. Now, in Regret: The Persistence of the Possible, Janet Landman takes a lively and perceptive look at this perhaps universal experience. Landman addresses key questions about the nature of regret - what it is, how you experience it, how it changes you. She draws on sources almost as multifaceted as the experience itself, including psychology, economics, philosophy, and anthropology, as well as classic works of literature. We learn what people regret most - lack of education comes first, followed by work and matters of the heart. We see how regret differs from other emotions, such as disappointment, remorse, and guilt. In one of the most fascinating sections, Landman examines four worldviews - the romantic, tragic, comic, and ironic - through which the experience of regret is colored. She explores how each of these worldviews shapes the way we regret, as exemplified in major novels such as Great Expectations, Notes from Underground, The Ambassadors, Mrs. Dalloway, and Breathing Lessons. In Dostoevsky's novel, for instance, regret is likened to a disease, the self-gnawing of a cellar mouse, and a poison of unfulfilled desires turned inward - that is, as something tragically self-destructive and incurable. Indeed, regret is widely regarded asinevitably ruinous and irrational; in economic decision theory regret has traditionally been conceived as an illogical state of being stuck in the past and ruled by emotion. Landman takes issue with these views and reveals some significant benefits of regret. At best, she argues, regreshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 394 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 35.56mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • Graphs
  • 0195071786
  • 9780195071788

Back cover copy

"We are a people who do not want to keep much of the past in our heads," Lillian Hellman once wrote. "It is considered unhealthy in America to remember mistakes, neurotic to think about them, psychotic to dwell upon them." Yet who in their lifetime has never regretted a lost love, a missed opportunity, a path not taken? Although poets and novelists have long probed the complexities of regret, little has been written from a scholarly perspective. Now, in Regret: The Persistence of the Possible, Janet Landman takes a lively and perceptive look at this perhaps universal experience. Landman addresses key questions about the nature of regret - what it is, how you experience it, how it changes you. She draws on sources almost as multifaceted as the experience itself, including psychology, economics, philosophy, and anthropology, as well as classic works of literature. We learn what people regret most - lack of education comes first, followed by work and matters of the heart. We see how regret differs from other emotions, such as disappointment, remorse, and guilt. In one of the most fascinating sections, Landman examines four worldviews - the romantic, tragic, comic, and ironic - through which the experience of regret is colored. She explores how each of these worldviews shapes the way we regret, as exemplified in major novels such as Great Expectations, Notes from Underground, The Ambassadors, Mrs. Dalloway, and Breathing Lessons. In Dostoevsky's novel, for instance, regret is likened to a disease, the self-gnawing of a cellar mouse, and a poison of unfulfilled desires turned inward - that is, as something tragically self-destructive and incurable. Indeed, regret is widely regarded asshow more

About Janet Landman

About the Author: Janet Landman teaches in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.show more

Review quote

an ambitious...dissertation placing side by side contributions to this under-researched topic, drawn from several different disciplines. * Journal of Behavioural Decision Making Vol 8 no 3 * `she has written a wide-ranging book, full of interesting observations. She shows courage in using an interdisciplinary approach. ... The breadth of her enquiry is admirable ... much of what she says is stimulating' Times Higher 'there are plenty of good things to say about regret, and Janet Landman says them with eloquence and erudition ... Ranging with equal assurance over literature, philosophy, economics and her own field of psychology, Ms. Landman probes the experience of regret from every imaginable angle.' Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal - Europe `covers a lot of good ground' Independent on Sundayshow more

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