In this celebration of contemporary American fiction, Kathryn Hume explores how estrangement from America has shaped the fiction of a literary generation, which she calls the Generation of the Lost Dream.
In breaking down the divisions among standard categories of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender, Hume identifies shared core concerns, values, and techniques among seemingly disparate and unconnected writers including T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ralph Ellison, Russell Banks, Gloria Naylor, Tim O'Brien, Maxine Hong Kingston, Walker Percy, N. Scott Momaday, John Updike, Toni Morrison, William Kennedy, Julia Alvarez, Thomas Pynchon, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Don DeLillo.
Hume explores fictional treatments of the slippage in the immigrant experience between America's promise and its reality. She exposes the political link between contemporary stories of lost innocence and liberalism's inadequacies. She also invites us to look at the literary challenge to scientific materialism in various searches for a spiritual dimension in life.
The expansive future promised by the American Dream has been replaced, Hume finds, by a sense of tarnished morality and a melancholy loss of faith in America's exceptionalism. American Dream, American Nightmare examines the differing critiques of America embedded in nearly a hundred novels and points to the source for recovery that appeals to many of the authors.
Nathanael West has been hailed as “an apocalyptic writer,” “a writer on the left,” and “a precursor to postmodernism.” But until now no critic has succeeded in fully engaging West’s distinctive method of negation. In American Superrealism, Jonathan Veitch examines West’s letters, short stories, screenplays and novels—some of which are discussed here for the first time—as well as West’s collaboration with William Carlos Williams during their tenure as the editors of Contact. Locating West in a lively, American avant-garde tradition that stretches from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol, Veitch explores the possibilities and limitations of dada and surrealism—the use of readymades, scatalogical humor, human machines, “exquisite corpses”—as modes of social criticism. American Superrealism offers what is surely the definitive study of West, as well as a provocative analysis that reveals the issue of representation as the central concern of Depression-era America.
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.
In this innovative revisiting of Don Quixote and the Novelas ejemplares, Carroll B. Johnson investigates in detail the cultural and material environment in which Cervantes placed his characters.
Cervantes and the Material World reveals a recurrent preoccupation with the clash of two different economic systems: a reenergized feudalism and an incipient capitalism. Overturning the common assumption that Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and myriad other colorful characters carry out their adventures in a timeless social milieu, Johnson demonstrates how their perspectives and experiences are shaped by the events and crises of their immediate historical context.
Johnson examines how questions of the distribution of wealth, the ownership of the means of production, and membership in one or another economic order permeate Cervantes's fiction. Thoughtfully contextualizing key excerpts, he suggests how business activities, legal codes, and other materialist practices actively impinge on the lives of the characters, influencing and in some cases determining their motivations and their possibilities for action.
A major study that will change the face of Cervantes scholarship, Cervantes and the Material World is also an important resource for students of the Spanish Golden Age and Renaissance and baroque literature and culture.
According to traditional accounts, the history of tragedy is itself tragic: following a miraculous birth in fifth-century Athens and a brilliant resurgence in the early modern period, tragic drama then falls into a marked decline. While disputing the notion that tragedy has died, this wide-ranging study argues that it faces an unprecedented challenge in modern times from an unexpected quarter: political economy.
Since Aristotle, tragedy has been seen as uniquely exhibiting the importance of action for human happiness. Beginning with Adam Smith, however, political economy has claimed that the source of happiness is primarily production. Eclipse of Action examines the tense relations between action and production, doing and making, in playwrights from Aeschylus, Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Milton to Beckett, Arthur Miller, and Sarah Kane. Richard Halpern places these figures in conversation with works by Aristotle, Smith, Hegel, Marx, Hannah Arendt, Georges Bataille, and others in order to trace the long history of the ways in which economic thought and tragic drama interact.
Economic Women: Essays on Desire and Dispossession in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, edited by Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport, showcases the wide-ranging economic activities and relationships of real and fictional women in nineteenth-century British culture. This volume’s essays chronicle the triumphs and setbacks of women who developed, described, contested, and exploited new approaches to economic thought and action. In their various roles as domestic employees, activists fighting for free trade, theorists developing statistical models, and individuals considering the cost of marriage and its dissolution, the women discussed here were givers and takers, producers and consumers.
Bringing together leading and emerging voices in the field, this collection builds on the wealth of interdisciplinary economic criticism published in the last twenty years, but it also challenges traditional understandings of economic subjectivity by emphasizing both private and public records and refusing to identify a single female corollary to Economic Man. The scholars presented here recover game-changing stories of women’s economic engagement from diaries, letters, ledgers, fiction, periodicals, and travel writing to reveal a nuanced portrait of Economic Women. Offering new readings of works by George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Willkie Collins, Charlotte Riddell, and Ellen Wood, and addressing political economy, consumerism, and business developments alongside the ethics of exchange and family finances, Economic Women tells a story of ambivalence as well as achievement, failure as well as forward motion.
Economies of Feeling offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that set the nineteenth-century Russian prose tradition in motion. Jillian Porter compares the conceptual history of social ambition in post-Napoleonic France and post-Decembrist Russia and argues that the dissonance between foreign and domestic understandings of this economic passion shaped the literature of Nicholas I’s reign (1825 —1855).
Porter shows how, for Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Faddei Bulgarin, ambition became a staging ground for experiments with transnational literary exchange. In its encounters with the celebrated Russian cultural value of hospitality and the age-old vice of miserliness, ambition appears both timely and anachronistic, suspiciously foreign and disturbingly Russian—it challenges readers to question the equivalence of local and imported words, feelings, and forms.
Economies of Feeling examines founding texts of nineteenth-century Russian prose alongside nonliterary materials from which they drew energy—from French clinical diagnoses of “ambitious monomania” to the various types of currency that proliferated under Nicholas I. It thus contributes fresh and fascinating insights into Russian characters’ impulses to attain rank and to squander, counterfeit, and hoard. Porter’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars of comparative as well as Russian literature.
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.
In this rich interdisciplinary study, Hildegard Hoeller argues that nineteenth-century American culture was driven by and deeply occupied with the tension between gift and market exchange. Rooting her analysis in the period's fiction, she shows how American novelists from Hannah Foster to Frank Norris grappled with the role of the gift based on trust, social bonds, and faith in an increasingly capitalist culture based on self-interest, market transactions, and economic reason. Placing the notion of sacrifice at the center of her discussion, Hoeller taps into the poignant discourse of modes of exchange, revealing central tensions of American fiction and culture.
Intricate Relations charts the development of the novel in and beyond the early republic in relation to these two thematic and intricately connected centers: sexuality and economics. By reading fiction written by Americans between 1789 and 1814 alongside medical theory, political and economic tracts, and pedagogical literature of all kinds, Karen Weyler recreates and illuminates the larger, sometimes opaque, cultural context in which novels were written, published, and read.
In 1799, the novelist Charles Brockden Brown used the evocative phrase “intricate relations” to describe the complex imbrication of sexual and economic relations in the early republic. Exploring these relationships, he argued, is the chief job of the “moral historian,” a label that most novelists of the era embraced. In a republic anxious about burgeoning individualism in the 1790s and the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the novel foregrounded sexual and economic desires and explored ways to regulate the manner in which they were expressed and gratified.
In Intricate Relations, Weyler argues that understanding how these issues underlie the novel as a genre is fundamental to understanding both the novels themselves and their role in American literary culture. Situating fiction amid other popular genres illuminates how novelists such as Charles Brockden Brown, Hannah Foster, Samuel Relf, Susanna Rowson, Rebecca Rush, and Sally Wood synthesized and iterated many of the concerns expressed in other forms of public discourse, a strategy that helped legitimate their chosen genre and make it a viable venue for discussion in the decades following the revolution.
Weyler’s passionate and persuasive study offers new insights into the civic role of fiction in the early republic and will be of great interest to literary theorists and scholars in women’s and American studies.
This groundbreaking volume explores the importance of economics and prosperity throughout Samuel Clemens’s writing and personal life.
Mark Twain and Money: Language, Capital, and Culture focuses on an overlooked feature of the story of one of America’s most celebrated writers. Investigating Samuel Clemens’s often conflicting but insightful views on the roles of money in American culture and identity, this collection of essays shows how his fascination with the complexity of nineteenth-century economics informs much of Mark Twain’s writing.
While most readers are familiar with Mark Twain the worldly wise writer, fewer are acquainted with Samuel Clemens the avid businessman. Throughout his life, he sought to strike it rich, whether mining for silver in Nevada, founding his own publishing company, or staking out ownership in the Paige typesetting machine. He was ever on the lookout for investment schemes and was intrigued by inventions, his own and those of others, that he imagined would net a windfall. Conventional wisdom has held that Clemens’s obsession with business and material wealth hindered his ability to write more and better books. However, this perspective fails to recognize how his interest in economics served as a rich source of inspiration for his literary creativity and is inseparable from his achievements as a writer. In fact, without this preoccupation with monetary success, Henry B. Wonham and Lawrence Howe argue, Twain’s writing would lack an important connection to a cornerstone of American culture.
The contributors to this volume examine a variety of topics, such as a Clemens family myth of vast landholdings, Clemens’s strategies for protecting the Mark Twain brand, his insights into rapidly evolving nineteenth-century financial practices, the persistence of patronage in the literary marketplace, the association of manhood and monetary success, Clemens’s attitude and actions toward poverty, his response to the pains of bankruptcy through writing, and the intersection of racial identity and economics in American culture. These illuminating essays show how pecuniary matters invigorate a wide range of Twain’s writing from The Gilded Age, Roughing It,The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, to later stories like “The £1,000,000 Banknote” and the Autobiography.
James Thompson examines the concept of value as it came to be understood in eighteenth-century England through two emerging and divergent discourses: political economy and the novel. By looking at the relationship between these two developing forms—one having to do with finance, the other with romance—Thompson demonstrates how value came to have such different meaning in different realms of experience. A highly original rethinking of the origins of the English novel, Models of Value shows the novel’s importance in remapping English culture according to the separate spheres of public and domestic life, men’s and women’s concerns, money and emotion. In this account, political economy and the novel clearly arise as solutions to a crisis in the notion of value. Exploring the ways in which these different genres responded to the crisis—political economy by reconceptualizing wealth as capital, and the novel by refiguring intrinsic or human worth in the form of courtship narratives—Thompson rereads several literary works, including Defoe’s Roxana, Fielding’s Tom Jones, and Burney’s Cecilia, along with influential contemporary economic texts. Models of Value also traces the discursive consequences of this bifurcation of value, and reveals how history and theory participate in the very novelistic and economic processes they describe. In doing so, the book bridges the opposition between the interests of Marxism and feminism, and the distinctions which, newly made in the eighteenth century, continue to inform our discourse today. An important reformulation of the literary and cultural production of the eighteenth century, Models of Value will attract students of the novel, political economy, and of literary history and theory.
Marsh locates Pound and Williams firmly in the Jeffersonian tradition and examines their epic poems as manifestations of a Jeffersonian ideology in modernist terms.
The modernist poets William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound were latter-day Jeffersonians whose politics and poetry were strongly marked by the populism of the late 19th century. They were sharply aware of the social contradictions of modernization and were committed to a highly politicized, often polemical poetry that criticized finance capitalism and its institutions--notably banks--in the strongest terms.
Providing a history of the aesthetics of Jeffersonianism and its collision with modernism in the works of Pound and Williams, Alec Marsh traces "the money question" from the republican period through the 1940s. Marsh can thus read two modernist epics--Pound's Cantos and Williams's Paterson--as the poets hoped they would be read, as attempts to break the hold of "false" financial values on the American imagination.
Marsh argues that Pound's and Williams's similar Jeffersonian outlooks were the direct result of the political battles of the 1890s concerning the meaning of money. Although Pound's interest in money and economics is well known, few people are aware that both poets were active in the Social Credit monetary-reform movement of the 1930s and 1940s, a movement shown by Marsh to have direct links to Jeffersonianism via American populism. Ultimately, the two poets took divergent paths, with Pound swerving toward Italian fascism (as exemplified in his Jefferson and/or Mussolini) and Williams becoming deeply influenced by the American pragmatism of John Dewey. Thus, Marsh concludes, Pound embraced the fascist version of state-capitalism whereas his old friend proclaimed a pragmatic openness to the new selves engendered by corporate capitalism.
Money and Modernity exemplifies the best of recent literary criticism in its incorporation of American studies and cultural studies approaches to bring new insight to modern masterworks.
Panic Fiction explores a unique body of antebellum American women’s writing that illuminates women’s relationships to the marketplace and the links between developing ideologies of domesticity and the formation of an American middle class.
Between the mid-1830s and the late 1850s, authors such as Hannah Lee, Catharine Sedgwick, Eliza Follen, Maria McIntosh, and Maria Cummins wrote dozens of novels and stories depicting the effects of financial panic on the home and proposing solutions to economic instability. This unique body of antebellum American women’s writing, which integrated economic discourse with the language and conventions of domestic fiction, is what critic Mary Templin terms “panic fiction.”
In Panic Fiction: Antebellum Women Writers and Economic Crisis, Templin draws in part from the methods of New Historicism and cultural studies, situating these authors and their texts within the historical and cultural contexts of their time. She explores events surrounding the panics of 1837 and 1857, prevalent attitudes toward speculation and failure as seen in newspapers and other contemporaneous texts, women’s relationships to the marketplace, and the connections between domestic ideology and middle-class formation.
Although largely unknown today, the phenomena of “panic fiction” was extremely popular in its time and had an enormous influence on nineteenth-century popular conceptions of speculation, failure, and the need for marketplace reform, providing a distinct counterpoint to the analysis of panic found in newspapers, public speeches, and male-authored literary texts of the time.
Paper Money Men: Commerce, Manhood, and the Sensational Public Sphere in Antebellum America by David Anthony outlines the emergence of a “sensational public sphere” in antebellum America. It argues that this new representational space reflected and helped shape the intricate relationship between commerce and masculine sensibility in a period of dramatic economic upheaval. Looking at a variety of sensational media—from penny press newspapers and pulpy dime novels to the work of well-known writers such as Irving, Hawthorne, and Melville—this book counters the common critical notion that the period’s sensationalism addressed a primarily working-class audience. Instead, Paper Money Men shows how a wide variety of sensational media was in fact aimed principally at an emergent class of young professional men. “Paper money men” were caught in the transition from an older and more stable mercantilist economy to a panic-prone economic system centered on credit and speculation. And, Anthony argues, they found themselves reflected in the sensational public sphere, a fantasy space in which new models of professional manhood were repeatedly staged and negotiated. Compensatory in nature, these alternative models of manhood rejected fiscal security and property as markers of a stable selfhood, looking instead toward intangible factors such as emotion and race in an effort to forge a secure sense of manhood in an age of intense uncertainty.
Pound in Purgatory, available now in paperback, overturns all previous explanations of Ezra Pound's anti-Semitism by uncovering its roots in economic and conspiracy theory. Leon Surette demonstrates that, contrary to popular opinion, Pound was not a life-long anti-Semite and consistently ignored or resisted anti-Semitic comments from his correspondents until after 1931.
From 1931 to 1945 Pound's poetry took a back seat to his activities as an economic reformer and propagandist for the corporate state. Pound believed he had a simple and practical solution for the economic woes of the world brought on by the Great Depression, and he became increasingly preoccupied with capturing political power for the economic reform he envisioned.
As the world spiraled toward war, Pound's program of economic reform foundered and he gradually succumbed to a paranoid belief in a Jewish conspiracy. Through an incisive analysis of Pound's correspondence and writings, much of it previously unexamined, Surette shows how this belief fostered the virulent anti-Semitism that pervades his work-–both poetry and prose-–from this time forward.
Ilana M. Blumberg The Ohio State University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PR468.R44B58 2013 | Dewey Decimal 823.809382
In Victorian Sacrifice: Ethics and Economics in Mid-Century Novels, Ilana Blumberg offers a major reconsideration of the central Victorian ethic of self-sacrifice, suggesting that much of what we have taken to be the moral psychology of Victorian fiction may be understood in terms of the dramatic confrontation between Christian theology and the world of modern economic theory. As Victorian writers Charlotte Mary Yonge, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Augusta Ward strove to forge a practicable ethics that would reconcile the influences of an evangelical Christianity and its emphasis on selfless charity with the forces of laissez-faire capitalism and its emphasis on individual profit, they moved away from the cherished ideal of painful, solitary self-sacrifice in service of another’s good. Instead, Blumberg suggests, major novelists sought an ethical realism characterized by the belief that virtuous action could serve the collective benefit of the parties involved. At a mid-century moment of economic optimism, novelists transformed the ethical landscape by imagining what the sociologist Herbert Spencer would later call a “measured egoism,” an ethically responsible self-concern which might foster communal solidarity and material abundance.
Bringing the recent literary turns to ethics and to economics into mutual conversation, Blumberg offers us a new lens on a matter as pressing today as 150 years ago: the search for an ethics adequate to the hopes and fears of a new economy.
Modern scholars often find it difficult to account for the profound eccentricities in the work of William Blake, dismissing them as either ahistorical or simply meaningless. But with this pioneering study, Saree Makdisi develops a reliable and comprehensive framework for understanding these peculiarities. According to Makdisi, Blake's poetry and drawings should compel us to reconsider the history of the 1790s. Tracing for the first time the many links among economics, politics, and religion in his work, Makdisi shows how Blake questioned and even subverted the commercial, consumerist, and political liberties that his contemporaries championed, all while developing his own radical aesthetic.
Did 19th-century American women have money of their own? To answer this question, Women, Money, and the Law looks at the public and private stories of individual women within the context of American culture, assessing how legal and cultural traditions affected women's lives, particularly with respect to class and racial differences, and analyzing the ways in which women were involved in economic matters. Joyce Warren has uncovered a vast, untapped archive of legal documents from the New York Supreme Court that had been expunged from the official record. By exploring hundreds of court cases involving women litigants between 1845 and 1875--women whose stories had, in effect, been erased from history--and by studying the lives and works of a wide selection of 19th-century women writers, Warren has found convincing evidence of women's involvement with money. The court cases show that in spite of the most egregious gender restrictions of law and custom, many 19th-century women lived independently, coping with the legal and economic restraints of their culture while making money for themselves and often for their families as well. They managed their lives and their money with courage and tenacity and fractured constructed gender identities by their lived experience. Many women writers, even when they did not publicly advocate economic independence for women, supported themselves and their families throughout their writing careers and in their fiction portrayed the importance of money in women's lives. Women from all backgrounds--some defeated through ignorance and placidity, others as ruthless and callous as the most hardened businessmen--were in fact very much a part of the money economy. Together, the evidence of the court cases and the writers runs counter to the official narrative, which scripted women as economically dependent and financially uninvolved. Warren provides an illuminating counternarrative that significantly questions contemporary assumptions about the lives of 19th-century women. Women, Money, and the Law is an important corrective to the traditional view and will fascinate scholars and students in women's studies, literary studies, and legal history as well as the general reader.
Working Fictions takes as its point of departure the common and painful truth that the vast majority of human beings toil for a wage and rarely for their own enjoyment or satisfaction. In this striking reconceptualization of Victorian literary history, Carolyn Lesjak interrogates the relationship between labor and pleasure, two concepts that were central to the Victorian imagination and the literary output of the era. Through the creation of a new genealogy of the “labor novel,” Lesjak challenges the prevailing assumption about the portrayal of work in Victorian fiction, namely that it disappears with the fall from prominence of the industrial novel. She proposes that the “problematic of labor” persists throughout the nineteenth century and continues to animate texts as diverse as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton, George Eliot’s Felix Holt and Daniel Deronda, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and the essays and literary work of William Morris and Oscar Wilde.
Lesjak demonstrates how the ideological work of the literature of the Victorian era, the “golden age of the novel,” revolved around separating the domains of labor and pleasure and emphasizing the latter as the proper realm of literary representation. She reveals how the utopian works of Morris and Wilde grapple with this divide and attempt to imagine new relationships between work and pleasure, relationships that might enable a future in which work is not the antithesis of pleasure. In Working Fictions, Lesjak argues for the contemporary relevance of the “labor novel,” suggesting that within its pages lie resources with which to confront the gulf between work and pleasure that continues to characterize our world today.