Uniform TitleThe financial imaginary: Dreiser, DeLillo, and abstract capitalism in American literature
NameShonkwiler, Alison R. (author), DeKoven, Marianne (chair), Dienst, Richard (internal member), McClure, John (internal member), Robbins, Bruce (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945--Criticism and interpretation,
DeLillo, Don--Criticism and interpretation,
Capitalism in literature
DescriptionThis dissertation examines the representation of capitalism as an abstract phenomenon in American literature at the beginning and end of the “long᾿ twentieth century. Comparing the two most recent ends-of-century—both notorious for the promotion of “new᾿ economic rules and extremes of wealth redistribution—allows us to chart writers’ efforts to find formal strategies adequate to represent changing conditions of economic abstraction. Reading fictions from the period of the American “economic novel᾿ from 1885 to 1912 by William Dean Howells, Henry James, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser, and from contemporary narratives of “late᾿ capitalism from 1998 to 2003 by Don DeLillo, Richard Powers, Jane Smiley, and David Denby, I show how texts from these two turns-of-century pose a question of parallel historical urgency: how to find new ways of seeing forces of capitalism that are thought to exceed conventional narrative powers of representation.
The financial imaginary thus invites us to consider the novel’s attempts—and its failures—to make late capitalism legible in realist terms. I consider how these texts historicize a particular view of late capital as able to evolve beyond its origins as “real᾿ money and toward new levels of financial immateriality. Exploring the ways in which the representation of capital is reconceived in literature as a problem of historical perception and understanding rather than as an account of a system of material production, I argue that the “financialization᾿ of the novel’s imagination—an expansive projection of cause and effect through the abstract terms of the market—is a literary expression of and a response to the market’s seeming ability to exceed social control. Just as late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century texts seek to define historically viable modes of financial selfhood, late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century texts allow us to track the ways that contemporary narrative returns to the preoccupations of the nineteenth-century economic novel even as it models the inadequacies of such fiction to tell the story of twentieth-century capitalism.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 209-215).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.