Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694-1994 / Edition 1

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In this ambitious book, Patrick Brantlinger offers a cultural history of Great Britain focused on the concept of "public credit," from the 1694 founding of the Bank of England to the present. He draws on literary texts ranging from Augustan satire such as Gulliver's Travels to postmodern satire such as Martin Amis's Money: A Suicide Note, all of which critique the misrecognition of public credit as wealth. The economic foundations of modern nation-states involved national debt, public credit, and paper money. Brantlinger traces the emergence of modern, imperial Great Britain from those foundations. He analyzes the process whereby nationalism, both the cause and the result of wars and imperial expansion, multiplied national debt and produced crises of public credit resolved only through more nationalism and war. During the first half of the eighteenth century, conservatives attacked public credit as fetishistic and characterized national debt as alchemical. From the 1850s, the stabilizing theories of public credit authored by David Hume, Adam Smith, Henry Thornton, and others helped initiate the first "social science" economics. In the nineteenth century, literary romanticism both paralleled and questioned early capitalist discourse on public credit and nationalism, while the Victorian novel refigured the national debt as individual, private credit and debt. During the era of high modernism and Keynesian economics, the notion of high culture as genuine value recast the debate over money and national indebtedness. Brantlinger relates this cultural-historical trajectory to Marxist, poststructuralist, and postcolonial theories about the decline of the European empires alter World War II, the global debt crisis, and the weakening of western nation-states in the postmodern era.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brantlinger's immensely learned third book carries on the current fashion in literary criticism of culture critique, employing both Marxist and postmodern categories."—Choice, Vol. 34, No. 3, November 1996

"Brantlinger marches with surprising thoroughness across a tremendous range of texts and history. . . .His discussion of the way philosophers of money. . . treat issues of national credit is comprehensive and helpful to his overall argument. . . In short, given the immensity of the subject and the tremendous range of materials Brantlinger treats, his achievement is impressive and illuminating."—David Evans, Cornell College

"Patrick Brantlinger is one of our leading cultural historians. In this new work on empire, debt, and fetishism, he extends his temporal and theoretical range. The results are stunning, and, for modern citizens, disturbing."—Regina Gagnier, Stanford University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801482878
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Brantlinger is James Rudy Professor of English (Emeritus) at Indiana University.

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Table of Contents

1 Debt, Fetishism, and Empire: A Postmodern Preamble 1
2 The Assets of Lilliput (1694-1763) 48
3 Upon Daedalian Wings (1750-1832) 88
4 Banking on Novels (1800-1914) 136
5 Consuming Modernisms, Phallic Mothers (1900-1945) 185
6 Postindustrial, Postcolonial, Postmodern: "Anarchy in the U.K." (1945-1994) 235
Works Cited 265
Index 283
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