Skip To Content
Melancholic Joy in an Age of Despair is a Course

Melancholic Joy in an Age of Despair


Sorry! The enrollment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Friday, November 17, 2023 | 2:00-5:15PM (ET) | Fully Online Workshop


In the most general sense, Melancholic Joy is about how to contend with the possibility that the rational response to reality is despair. Working with engaging and accessible examples, diverse expressions of poetic and literary insight, and clear philosophical arguments, Dr. Brian Treanor offers an honest assessment of the human condition. It is one that unflinchingly acknowledges both the everyday frustrations and extraordinary horrors that counsel despair and the seemingly inexhaustible opportunities for joy and wonder that suggest the possibility of something beyond despair. The point is to see both aspects of reality clearly. Denying or dismissing the possibility of despair is a fool’s errand, first because there are legitimate reasons for despair, and second because much despair is not rooted in reasons at all, but rather in a kind of global mood or attunement.

However, remaining insensitive to the more salutary aspects of reality is its own kind of failure-to-see, because beauty and goodness are happening everywhere, whether it is noticed or not. Dr. Treanor's goal, then, is not to argue against despair (because there are good arguments for it, and because emotionally rooted forms of despair are not vulnerable to reason at all); rather, the goal is to be trained to see the full picture, the beauty as well as the brutality, and then to cultivate habits that maximize the former while dealing with the latter.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this workshop, attendees will be able to: 

  1. Identify different historical characterizations—philosophical, religious, literary, poetic—of the meaningfulness and meaninglessness of life.
  2. Analyze both first-person lived accounts of life and more disinterested or objective accounts of life that support arguments for the meaningfulness and meaninglessness of life.
  3. Asses the strength of these different positions regarding the legitimacy of reasons one might despair, as well as the possibility that one might embrace life despite the legitimate reasons to despair of it.

Timeline and Requirements:

The course will take place on Friday, November 17, 2023. This workshop is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. This will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 2:00 - 5:15 pm (ET) with a 15-minute break. 

CE Sponsorship: 

This lecture does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed below, and we only grant CEs for synchronous attendance of events. Participants must attend the workshop in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs.

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Participants will be eligible to receive 3.0 CE units from University Counseling Services of Boston College.

This program has been approved for 2.5 Social Work Continuing Education hours for relicensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. NASW-MA Chapter CE Approval Program Authorization Number D92245.

CEs for LMHCs are not available for this workshop.

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Registration closes November 17 at 2:00PM. Refunds will be granted only up until the start of the workshop. No refunds will be granted for registration or technical errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email, login failure, etc.).

This workshop is made possible through the support of Grant 62632 from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed by these presenters do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. If you need to request an accommodation or ask a question about accessibility, please contact

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website


Dr. Brian Treanor is a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, where he has won numerous teaching awards and held the Charles S. Casassa SJ Chair, the Taylor Chair in Philosophy, and the Daum Chair in the Liberal Arts. His journey to academia was long and atypical. Having dropped out of college to move to Japan, he eventually completed undergraduate studies at UCLA, after which he spent the better part of a decade traveling and engaged in serial autodidactism. He completed graduate studies at Boston College. He is the author or editor of ten books, including: Melancholic Joy (Bloomsbury 2021), Philosophy in the American West (Routledge 2020), Carnal Hermeneutics (Fordham 2015), Emplotting Virtue (SUNY 2014), and Interpreting Nature (Fordham 2013).