Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Comparative Literature and Literary Theory
James F. English
My dissertation, “Personal Finance: Economic Citizenship and Financial Form in the Contemporary Novel” theorises the novel’s engagement with the post-1970s financialisation of the economy from the ground up. Contrary to the dominant perception of finance as a turn away from the solidity of industry and production in favour of a realm of hyperbolic abstraction, finance capital emerges in this project as a thickly material concern. My writing follows the money, tracking the way that finance is routed through social forms: urban planning, philanthrocapitalism, migrant access to citizenship in global cities, and the fleshy finance of corporate nanotechnology. These material forms do not replace the abstract form of finance capital; rather, the two must be theorised together. Nowhere is this articulated more eloquently than in the contemporary novel. As a form that has emerged to mediate the relationship between the individual and the social, investigating the broadest economic shifts with the sensitive instrument of character, the contemporary novel is both an essential archive and a highly ambivalent response to new financial realities. A second and related claim of “Personal Finance” concerns the complexity of theorising a mode of capital that is both deeply national and rapaciously global. Critical work on finance in the humanities slips swiftly from identifying the lived experience of finance in a US context to arguing that this financialised form of citizenship will play out identically across the globe. Countering this claim informs both the archive and the methodology of my project. My dissertation reads a set of contemporary US novels that trace the felt experiences of the global economy within North America alongside a set of contemporary novels from the wider Anglophone world. Building on recent theoretical work in literature and economics and urban studies, the emphasis of “Personal Finance” throughout is to unsettle hegemonic claims about the financial, the global, and the national through the material and affective archive of the contemporary novel.
Finch, Laura, "Personal Finance: Economic Citizenship and Financial form in the Contemporary Novel" (2016). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1714.