FS30220 Wellness & Happiness Media

Academic Year 2021/2022

This class will ask students to define wellness and happiness both as concepts and as media genres. We will also examine commercial wellness products and their advertising (think GOOP, spas, anything with the hashtags #selfcare or #treatyoself). We will learn a compact history of happiness and wellness; their roots in political philosophy and capitalism. With that foundation, we will analyze key texts from the vast pile of 2010s wellness media with an eye to understand 1)the contemporary political, economic, and social circumstances that create such a wave of content; 2)happiness & wellness media’s close ties to despair (economic, political and cultural); 3)the relationship of wellness to class, race, and gender; and 4)our own relationships to wellness media.

A note for 2020: This module was conceived in 2019 before a global pandemic gave the idea of wellness a whole different set of meanings and contexts. We will, by force, bring our experiences of Covid-19 (not least the online classroom environment) to class discussions and concepts. Please note, however, this is NOT a psychology or mindfulness how-to class; it is a study of media and consumer products and their cultural history, context, and consequences.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Our learning outcomes are broken into 2 categories. First the practical:
• Students will be able to define wellness and happiness media and situate them in historical context.
• They will use research and critical media analysis to produce original analyses of media products in their economic, cultural, and historical contexts
• Students will critically engage with the process of writing or creating through the process of proposal, drafting, and feedback

In addition to those concrete learning outcomes, below is a list of questions students should consider and engage with throughout the semester. You don’t need to have a definitive single answer to these questions, but by the end of term, you should be able to confidently have a discussion with your instructor or classmates in response to these questions, and to use evidence (that is, detailed examples from the real world plus references to scholarly articles either posted in Brightspace or found via your own research) to support your claims.
• Why is there a whole class about wellness media?
• How do wellness media and wellness products function during a pandemic?
• What is the relationship between wellness and race? Gender? Class?
• What is the relationship between wellness media and health?
• What is the relationship between wellness and happiness? Other emotions?
• Can/how can wellness, health, and capitalism happily coexist?
• What is your relationship to wellness media and wellness products?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This class will combine synchronous and asynchronous online content including short lectures, small group discussion (in the virtual classroom), and full group discussion. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Feedback and Response
Students must attend a one-on-one feedback session to discuss final project proposal & outline. They will submit a brief written response to feedback.
Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Final Project Outline Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Project: End of semester research project may be a written essay or a creative project. It will be based on the proposal, outline, and feedback earlier in the term. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: 3 blog posts. Together all 3 are worth 20% of your grade.
Students will follow a template posted to Brightspace
Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Final Project Proposal Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

This is an indicative list only. It will be supplemented by readings posted in Brightspace
William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being (ebook available in library)
Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy (excerpts on Brightspace; no ebook available)
Bianca Williams, The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism (ebook on order as of August)