Cultural Representations of Finance in the United States, 1901-1991


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


American Studies


This project investigates the representation of finance in twentieth-century American texts by linking aesthetic form with the social inequalities produced by financial mechanisms. It begins with the early twentieth-century laissez-faire era, when the term “finance capital” began to circulate in political economy, and the individual financier emerged as a key protagonist in naturalist fiction. Secondly, it examines the postwar period when financial instruments, including federally backed home mortgages and credit cards, were deployed on a national scale in order to enable mass consumption and were further represented as plot devices in a series of novels and films. The study concludes with the 1980s Reagan-era, when finance was associated with violence and paranoia in popular financial novels of the period.