Speculative Fictions: Explaining the Economy in the Early United States

ISBN : 9780198859130

Elizabeth Hewitt
336 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2020
Oxford Studies in American Literary History
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Speculative Fictions places Alexander Hamilton at the center of American literary history to consider the important intersections between economics and literature. By studying Hamilton as an economic and imaginative writer, it argues that we can recast the conflict with the Jeffersonians as a literary debate about the best way to explain and describe modern capitalism, and explores how various other literary forms allow us to comprehend the complexities of a modern global economy in entirely new ways.

Speculative Fictions identifies two overlooked literary genres of the late eighteenth-century as exemplary of this narrative mode. It asks that we read periodical essays and Black Atlantic captivity narratives with an eye not towards bourgeois subject formation, but as descriptive analyses of economic systems. In doing so, we discover how these two literary genres offer very different portraits of a global economy than that rendered by the novel, the imaginative genre we are most likely to associate with modern capitalism. Developing an aesthetic appreciation for the speculative, digressive, and unsystematic plotlines of these earlier narratives has the capacity to generate new imaginative projects with which to make sense of our increasingly difficult economic world.


Introduction: Hamilton's Country
1 Hamilton and the Encyclopedic Stories of Public Credit
2 Jefferson and the Simple Story of Pastoral Economies
3 Stories without Plots
4 The Slave as System

About the author: 

Elizabeth Hewitt is an associate professor in the Department of English at The Ohio State University, Columbus. She is the author of Correspondence and American Literature, 1770-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and editor of The Letters and Early Epistolary Writings of Charles Brockden Brown and Edgar Allan Poe: A Case Study in Critical Controversy.

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