Panic!: Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction / Edition 1

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During the economic depression of the 1890s and the speculative frenzy of the following decade, Wall Street, high finance, and market crises assumed unprecedented visibility in the United States. Fiction writers published scores of novels in the period that explored this new cultural phenomenon. In Panic!, David A. Zimmerman studies how American novelists and their readers imagined—and in one case, incited—market crashes and financial panics.

Panic! examines how Americans' attitudes toward securities markets, popular investment, and financial catastrophe were entangled with their conceptions of gender, class, crowds, corporations, and history. Zimmerman investigates how writers turned to mob psychology, psychic investigations, and conspiracy discourse to understand not only how financial markets worked, but also how mass acts of financial reading, including novel reading, could trigger economic disaster and cultural chaos. In addition, Zimmerman shows how, by concentrating on markets in crisis, novelists were able to explore the limits of fiction's aesthetic, economic, and ethical capacities. With readings of canonical as well as lesser-known novelists, Zimmerman provides an original and wide-ranging analysis of the relation between fiction and financial modernity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An inventive and valuable addition to the scholarship addressing the interpenetration of economics and literature specifically and to studies of the modern United States more generally. . . . An imaginative and rich analysis of financial panic's literary coordinates.—Modern Fiction Studies

Rich in the anecdotes and details that capture the cultural context of the decades that straddled the turn of the twentieth century.—American Historical Review

Panic is filled with keen insights. . . . It importantly resuscitates stories and recasts tropes from early twentieth century America."-Literature & History

Meticulously researched and equally well-written. . . . Thorough and masterful. . . . Zimmerman himself has scored a victory with this book. Panic! Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction is a winner.—Business History Review

Both a valuable contribution to the field and a methodological exemplar for further study. . . . Many studies provide context, but Panic! shifts seamlessly between strict historicism and the innovative, culturally specific histories necessary for a full understanding of the novels Zimmerman discusses. . . . Remarkably deep analyses.—Studies in American Naturalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807856871
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2006
  • Series: Cultural Studies of the United States Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Zimmerman is associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Table of Contents

1 Panic and the petroleuse 39
2 I can do anything with words : Thomas Lawson's frenzied fictions 81
3 Frank Norris and the mesmeric sublime 123
4 Melodrama and the moral implications of financial panic 151
5 The Financier and the ends of accounting 191
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