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ENG567: Fictions of Finance

What do we value? The pursuit of profit, surges in wealth, the suspect principles of the financier and the exploitation of labor have intrigued authors since the 19th century.

What do we value? The pursuit of profit, surges in wealth, the suspect principles of the financier and the exploitation of labor have intrigued authors since the 19th century. How do language, narrative style, structure and literary production transform with shifts in the marketplace? What happens to the fictions we create when the production of wealth moves further and further from the production of things and closer to an invisible economy? Through a careful investigation of literature, film and illustration, we will discuss how art imagines, captures, reproduces, and redefines social and economic relations. In return, we will supplement the literary works with historical documents or articles that will shed light on the economic climate at the time of publication. We might consider how the imagined space of the novel presents the mystery of the financial market, which seems hidden and shrouded in a haze. We might also ponder how authors imagine worlds where money has no practical use and nothing has any purchasing power. Authors might include Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. E. B. Dubois, Henry James, Joseph O'Neill, Zia Haider Rahman, Zadie Smith, Marilyn Robinson, Viet Thanh Ngyuen and Peter Mountford. Over the course of the term, students will write short analytical pieces and complete a creative independent project of their own design.