Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophic Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era

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In Money, Language, and Thought, Marc Shell explores the interactions between linguistic and economic production as they inform discourse from Chretien de Troyes to Heidegger. Close readings of works such as the medieval grail legends, The Merchant of Venice, Goethe's Faust, and Poe's "The Gold Bug" reveal how discourse has responded to the dissociation of symbol from thing characteristic of money, and how the development of increasingly symbolic currencies has involved changes in the meaning of meaning.

Pursuing his investigations into the modern era, Shell points out significant internalization of economic form in Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger. He demonstrates how literature and philosophy have been driven to account self-critically for a "money of the mind" that pervades all discourse, and concludes the book with a discomforting thesis about the cultural and political limits of literature and philosophy in the modern world.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Eighteenth Century

Shell offers admirably close readings [which are] often brilliant... Summary could do little more than hint at the riches laid open.

Religious Studies Review

A remarkable piece of work. Valuable for a wide range of readers from the expert to the inquiring generalist.

The author explores the interaction between linguistics and economic production as they influence works of literature and philosophy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801846939
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Series: Softshell Books
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: From Electrum to Electricity 1
1 The Gold Bug: Introduction to "the Industry of Letters" in America 5
Monetary and Aesthetic Theory 5
The Bug for Gold 8
The Humbug: Entomological Specimen, Species of Madness, and Specie 10
From Nothing to Something 14
The Goolah Bug: Linguistic Goolah and Monetary Goole 18
Last Words 22
2 The Blank Check: Accounting for the Grail 24
Dearth and Plenitude 27
Promise and Delivery 29
An Exchange Contract 32
Ideal and Real Estate 34
Checking Out the Eucharist 39
3 The Wether and the Ewe: Verbal Usury in The Merchant of Venice 47
Use, Ewes, and Iewes 48
From Courtship to Court 55
My Purse, My Person 60
Cancellations 69
Redemption? 76
4 Language and Property: The Economics of Translation in Goethe's Faust 84
Translation 84
Wealth and Poetry 91
Paper Money and Language 99
The Evocation of Helen 111
The Law of the Fist (Faustrecht) 117
The Dead Pledge (Faustpfand) 121
The Dialectical Plot 126
5 Money of the Mind: Dialectic and Monetary Form in Kant and Hegel 131
Suppression and Adequation in Kant 133
Against Formalism 137
Sublation and the Modus Tollens 139
Checkers and Cheeks 142
The Difference 147
Putting Hegel Down 150
6 "What is Truth?": Lessing's Numismatics and Heidegger's Alchemy 156
Nathan the Wise 157
On the Essence of Truth 162
On the Epigram 170
Conclusion 179
App. I: Beyond Chrysography 191
App. II: Likeness and Likelihood 194
App. III: The Money Complex of Psychoanalysis 196
Index 227
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