A/Moral Economics is an interdisciplinary historical study that examines the ways which social “science” of economics emerged through the discourse of the literary, namely the dominant moral and fictional narrative genres of early and mid-Victorian England. In particular, this book argues that the classical economic theory of early-nineteenth-century England gained its broad cultural authority not directly, through the well- known texts of such canonical economic theorists as David Ricardo, but indirectly through the narratives constructed by Ricardo’s popularizers John Ramsey McCulloch and Harriet Martineau.
By reexamining the rhetorical and institutional contexts of classical political economy in the nineteenth century, A/Moral Economics repositions the popular writings of both supporters and detractors of political economy as central to early political economists’ bids for a cultural voice. The now marginalized economic writings of McCulloch, Martineau, Henry Mayhew, and John Ruskin, as well as the texts of Charles Dickens and J. S. Mill, must be read as constituting in part the entities they have been read as merely criticizing. It is this repressed moral logic that resurfaces in a range of textual contradictions—not only in the writings of Ricardo’s supporters, but, ironically, in those of his critics as well.
Between 1870 and 1930, Latin American countries were incorporated into global capitalist networks like never before, mainly as exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactured goods. During this Export Age, entire regions were given over to the cultivation of export commodities such as coffee and bananas, capital and labor were relocated to new production centers, and barriers to foreign investment were removed. Capital Fictions investigates the key role played by literature in imagining and interpreting the rapid transformations unleashed by Latin America’s first major wave of capitalist modernization.
Using an innovative blend of literary and economic analysis and drawing from a rich interdisciplinary archive, Ericka Beckman provides the first extended evaluation of Export Age literary production. She traces the emergence of a distinct set of fictions, fantasies, and illusions that accompanied the rise of export-led, dependent capitalism. These “capital fictions” range from promotional pamphlets for Guatemalan coffee and advertisements for French fashions, to novels about stock market collapse in Argentina and rubber extraction in the Amazon.
Beckman explores how Export Age literature anticipated some of the key contradictions faced by contemporary capitalist societies, including extreme financial volatility, vast social inequality, and ever-more-intense means of exploitation. Questioning the opposition between culture and economics in Latin America and elsewhere, Capital Fictions shows that literature operated as a powerful form of political economy during this period.
Folded Selves radically refigures traditional portraits of seventeenth-century New England literature and culture by situating colonial writing within the spatial, transnational, and economic contexts that characterized the early-modern “world system” theorized by Immanuel Wallerstein and others. Michelle Burnham rethinks American literary history and the politics of colonial dissent, and her book breaks new ground in making the economic relations of investment, credit, and trade central to this new framework for early American literary and cultural study. Transcontinental colonialism and mercantile capitalism underwrote not just the emerging world system but New World writing—suggesting that early modern literary aesthetics and the early modern economy helped to sponsor each other. Burnham locates in New England’s literature of dissent—from Ma-re Mount to the Salem witchcraft trials – a persistent use of economic language, as well as competing economies of style. The brilliance of Burnham’s study is that it exposes the transoceanic material and commercial concerns of colonial America’s literature and culture of dissent.
How did banking, borrowing, investing, and even losing money—in other words, participating in the modern financial system—come to seem likeroutine activities of everydaylife? Genres of the Credit Economy addressesthis question by examining the history of financial instruments and representations of finance in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.
Chronicling the process by which some of our most important conceptual categories were naturalized, Mary Poovey explores complex relationships among forms of writing that are not usually viewed together, from bills of exchange and bank checks, to realist novels and Romantic poems, to economic theory and financial journalism. Taking up all early forms of financial and monetarywriting, Poovey argues that these genres mediated for early modern Britons the operations of a market system organized around credit and debt. By arguing that genre is a critical tool for historical and theoretical analysis and an agent in the events that formed the modern world, Poovey offers a new way to appreciate the character of the credit economy and demonstrates the contribution historians and literary scholars can make to understanding its operations.
Much more than an exploration of writing on and around money, Genres of the Credit Economy offers startling insights about the evolution of disciplines and the separation of factual and fictional genres.
What is the relationship between our conception of humans as producers or creators; as consumers of taste and pleasure; and as creators of value? Combining cultural history, economics, and literary criticism, Regenia Gagnier's new work traces the parallel development of economic and aesthetic theory, offering a shrewd reading of humans as workers and wanters, born of labor and desire.
The Insatiability of Human Wants begins during a key transitional moment in aesthetic and economic theory, 1871, when both disciplines underwent a turn from production to consumption models. In economics, an emphasis on the theory of value and the social relations between land, labor, and capital gave way to more individualistic models of consumerism. Similarly, in aesthetics, theories of artistic production or creativity soon bowed to models of taste, pleasure, and reception.
Using these developments as a point of departure, Gagnier deftly traces the shift in Western thought from models of production to consumption. From its exploration of early market logic and Kantian thought to its look at the aestheticization of homelessness and our own market boom, The Insatiability of Human Wants invites us to contemplate alternative interpretations of economics, aesthetics, and history itself.
Offering a fresh perspective on the gothic novel in America, this vigorous study engages the underlying currents that define American culture as one of consumption. It rereads texts that range from Hawthorne, Poe, James, and Faulkner to the contemporary gothic novels of Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Anne Rice. By exposing the literary motifs of subversion and seduction inherent in these works as disruptive to the flow, circulation, and expansion of value, this book positions American literary culture as an extension of commodity economics. Its cogent yet interdisciplinary approach, supported by the work of such theorists as Jacques Lacan and Jean Baudrillard, makes this text useful to anyone interested in American literature, popular culture, and American economic thought.
In nineteenth-century Britain, the word queer was associated not only with same-sex desire but also with irregular forms of financial association and trust. Queer Economic Dissonance and Victorian Literature centers this forgotten facet of queer by recovering an alternative economic narrative of the Victorian period: one of economic excess, waste, debt, and downward mobility. Drawing on insights from intersectional queer theory and economic literary criticism, as well as astute readings of works by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Mary Seacole, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde, Meg Dobbins argues that eccentric economic figures like Black entrepreneurs, childless widows, and working-class benefactors represent sites of queerness––forms of economic desire, identity, strategy, or relation that become sites of friction within the developing social and institutional norms of nineteenth-century capitalism. Dobbins argues that Victorian authors document the everyday economic struggles of those cast aside, left behind, and fundamentally transfigured by modern capitalism. Rather than rejecting capitalist ideology, these authors queer socioeconomic norms, shedding light on the provocative ways Victorians made capitalism livable, and even pleasurable. In this way, Queer Economic Dissonance rearticulates the link between erotic and economic forms of dissonance in capitalist society.
Savage Exchange explores the politics of representation during the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) at a pivotal moment when China was asserting imperialist power on the Eurasian continent and expanding its local and long-distance (“Silk Road”) markets. Tamara T. Chin explains why rival political groups introduced new literary forms with which to represent these expanded markets. To promote a radically quantitative approach to the market, some thinkers developed innovative forms of fiction and genre. In opposition, traditionalists reasserted the authority of classical texts and advocated a return to the historical, ethics-centered, marriage-based, agricultural economy that these texts described. The discussion of frontiers and markets thus became part of a larger debate over the relationship between the world and the written word. These Han debates helped to shape the ways in which we now define and appreciate early Chinese literature and produced the foundational texts of Chinese economic thought. Each chapter in the book examines a key genre or symbolic practice (philosophy, fu-rhapsody, historiography, money, kinship) through which different groups sought to reshape the political economy. By juxtaposing well-known texts with recently excavated literary and visual materials, Chin elaborates a new literary and cultural approach to Chinese economic thought.
A literary scholar and investment banker applies economic criticism to canonical novels, dramatically changing the way we read these classics and proposing a new model for how economics can inform literary analysis.
Every writer is a player in the marketplace for literature. Jonathan Paine locates the economics ingrained within the stories themselves, revealing how a text provides a record of its author’s attempt to sell the story to his or her readers.
An unusual literary scholar with a background in finance, Paine mines stories for evidence of the conditions of their production. Through his wholly original reading, Balzac’s The Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans becomes a secret diary of its author’s struggles to cope with the commercializing influence of serial publication in newspapers. The Brothers Karamazov transforms into a story of Dostoevsky’s sequential bets with his readers, present and future, about how to write a novel. Zola’s Money documents the rise of big business and is itself a product of Zola’s own big business, his factory of novels.
Combining close readings with detailed analyses of the nineteenth-century publishing contexts in which prose fiction first became a product, Selling the Story shows how the business of literature affects even literary devices such as genre, plot, and repetition. Paine argues that no book can be properly understood without reference to its point of sale: the author’s knowledge of the market, of reader expectations, and of his or her own efforts to define and achieve literary value.
In May 1906, the Atlantic Monthly commented that Americans live not merely in an age of things, but under the tyranny of them, and that in our relentless effort to sell, purchase, and accumulate things, we do not possess them as much as they possess us. For Bill Brown, the tale of that possession is something stranger than the history of a culture of consumption. It is the story of Americans using things to think about themselves.
Brown's captivating new study explores the roots of modern America's fascination with things and the problem that objects posed for American literature at the turn of the century. This was an era when the invention, production, distribution, and consumption of things suddenly came to define a national culture. Brown shows how crucial novels of the time made things not a solution to problems, but problems in their own right. Writers such as Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Henry James ask why and how we use objects to make meaning, to make or remake ourselves, to organize our anxieties and affections, to sublimate our fears, and to shape our wildest dreams. Offering a remarkably new way to think about materialism, A Sense of Things will be essential reading for anyone interested in American literature and culture.