REGRET by Janet Landman

REGRET

The Persistence of the Possible
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A spirited if scholarly examination of the nature of regret. Landman (Psychology/University of Michigan) defines regret as ``a more or less painful cognitive and emotive state of feeling sorry for misfortunes, limitations, losses, transgressions, shortcomings, or mistakes.'' Nothing startling there--but ``cognitive'' and ``emotive'' are the keys, since Landman considers regret to be an experience of ``felt-reason'' or ``reasoned-emotion.'' She analyzes regret through a literary lens, choosing novels that exemplify four different views of regret: the romantic (Dickens's Great Expectations); the comic (James's The Ambassadors); the tragic (Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground); and the ironic (Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway). She also looks at Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons, which, she says, blends the romantic and ironic. In addition, Landman draws on empirical surveys, philosophy, chaos theory, anthropology, economics, psychology, and even poetry, for she sees regret as a complex, multilayered experience. Among the questions explored are: What sort of experience is regret? Who is most likely to feel it? What causes regret? What role does it play? How is it transformed? Landman's exploration of the role of regret gets involved in theories of decision-making, along with sometimes daunting mathematical formulas, but math-phobes can skip this discussion...without regret. Meanwhile, the author's study of the transformation of regret through a dialectical process requires careful reading but is central to her view of regret as concept and experience. Landman favors a romantic-ironic view that acknowledges regret's force; recognizes the inevitability of conflict, loss, limits, and mistakes; and remains alert to contradictions and ambiguities. Erudite, intense, and intellectually demanding.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-507178-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993