Special Topics in Language & Literature: Literature and the Culture of Capitalism


This course looks closely at a selection of eighteenth and nineteenth-century English and American texts to see exactly how they use literary tropes or metaphors specific to a capitalist economy—e.g., production, consumption, massification and urbanization, regionalism, sexuality and reproduction, and imperialism. Selections by Locke, Adam Smith, Malthus, Marx, and Freud will help us to identify the logic underlying these tropes, but only literary narra- ves can show us how “Capitalism” became intelligible to mass readerships. Our project will be to determine how such narratives as Wuthering Heights, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, short stories by Poe, Hard Times, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dracula, King Solomon’s Mines, The Picture of Dorian Grey, and The Great Gatsby set up the conflicts created by capitalism so that readers can imaginatively resolve them.