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Professor Lasch-Quinn Explores the Meaning of Life in New Book
In her new book, “Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living” (Notre Dame Press), Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, professor of history in the Maxwell School, explores Americans’ stirring interest in ancient Greco-Roman philosophies including Cynicism, Platonism, Gnosticism, Stoicism and Epicureanism, and whether they can offer any alternatives to contemporary consumer culture as a means to happiness and well-being.
“Ars Vitae,” Latin for “the Art of Life,” is an ambitious historical project connecting ancient philosophy to our modern way of life. Using a variety of films, manuals, popular culture and scholarly works, Lasch-Quinn traces the ancient philosophical ways of living, juxtaposing them to America’s age of self-focused consumerism. She asks whether ancient philosophies in their new forms contradict or harden our approach to inwardness in society today. “Ars Vitae” digs deep into the roots of the meaning of life and challenges our normative ways of being.
Lasch-Quinn is a senior research associate in the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School. She is also a non-residential visiting faculty fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s Foundation, In Media Res, at the University of Virginia. Her current research interests focus on how individuals and societies over time address the question of how to live, particularly as it relates to self-worth, well-being and happiness.
Her other research interests include historical race relations in America, the arts, Platonism and Neoplatonism, Ancient Greco-Roman philosophy, and European and American intellectual history. In 2017, the Department of History awarded Lasch-Quinn with the Frank and Helen Pellicone Faculty Scholar Award.
This article was written by Chad Chambers, Ph.D. candidate in geography