Against Corporate Humanism: The Modernist Critique of Corporate Mind


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Against Corporate Humanism” brings the legal history of financial institutions into discussion with literary and cultural scholarship to examine a century-long set of questions about how collective entities relate to individuals. The project combines literary interpretations of major modernist novels—by Henry James, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin—with close textual analysis of legal theory and case law. Marshaling these different types of cultural responses to corporate forms, “Against Corporate Humanism” argues that modernism’s intense focus on individuality enabled early twentieth-century writers to explore the impact of corporations on evolving notions of personhood, just as lawyers and judges were doing in briefs and opinions. Illuminating American legal history and its intersection with American literature, the project provides jurists and citizens with stronger philosophical and textual support to reexamine the status and rights of corporations.