In Financial Speculation in Victorian Fiction: Plotting Money and the Novel Genre, 1815-1901, Tamara S. Wagner explores the ways in which financial speculation was imagined and turned into narratives in Victorian Britain. Since there clearly was much more to literature’s use of the stock market than a mere reflection of contemporary economic crises alone, a much-needed reappraisal of the Victorians’ fascination with extended fiscal plots and metaphors also asks for a close reading of the ways in which this fascination remodeled the novel genre. It was not merely that interchanges between literary productions and the credit economy’s new instruments became self-consciously worked into fiction. Financial uncertainties functioned as an expression of indeterminacy and inscrutability, of an encompassing sense of instability.
Bringing together canonical and still rarely discussed texts, this study analyzes the making and adaptation of specific motifs, of variously adapted tropes, extended metaphors, and recurring figures, including their transformation of a series of crises into narratives. Since these crises were often personal and emotional as well as financial, the new plots of speculation described maps of some of the major themes of nineteenth-century literature. These maps led across overlapping categories of literary culture, generating zones of intersection between otherwise markedly different subgenres that ranged from silver-fork fiction to the surprisingly protean versions of the sensation novel’s domestic Gothic. Financial plots fascinatingly operated as the intersecting points in these overlapping developments, compelling a reconsideration of literary form.
Everyone agrees that Balzac is a realistic writer, but what do we actually mean when we say that? This book examines the richness and variety of Balzac’s approaches to realism, employing several different interpretive methods. Taking love and money as the “Prime Movers” of the world of La Comédie humaine, twenty-one chapters provide detailed analyses of the many strategies by which the writing forges the powerful impression of reality, the construction we famously think of as Balzacian realism. Each chapter sets the methods and aims of its analysis, with particular attention to the language that conveys the sense of reality. Plots, devices, or interpretive systems (including genealogies) function as images or reflections of how the novels make their meanings. The analyses converge on the central point: how did Balzac invent realism? No less than this fundamental question lies behind the interpretations this book provides, a question to which the conclusion provides a full answer.
A major book in English devoted entirely to Balzac was overdue. Here is the American voice of Balzac studies, an engaging, insightful, and revealing excursion among the masterworks of one of the most important authors of all time.
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.
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.
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.
In Standards of Value, Michael Germana reveals how tectonic shifts in U.S. monetary policy—from the Coinage Act of 1834 to the abolition of the domestic gold standard in 1933–34—correspond to strategic changes by American writers who renegotiated the value of racial difference. Populating the pages of this bold and innovative study are authors as varied as Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Ralph Ellison—all of whom drew analogies between the form Americans thought the nation's money should take and the form they thought race relations and the nation should take.
A cultural history of race organized around and enmeshed within the theories of literary and monetary value, Standards of Value also recovers a rhetorical tradition in American culture whose echoes can be found in the visual and lyrical grammars of hip hop, the paintings of John W. Jones and Michael Ray Charles, the cinematography of Spike Lee, and many other contemporary forms and texts.
This reconsideration of American literature and cultural history has implications for how we value literary texts and how we read shifting standards of value. In vivid prose, Germana explains why dollars and cents appear where black and white bodies meet in American novels, how U.S. monetary policy gave these symbols their cultural currency, and why it matters for scholars of literary and cultural studies.
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.