Reading the Symptom: Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and the Dynamics of Capitalism

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Reading the Symptom is concerned with naturalism; it is also necessarily concerned with capitalism as the complex-structuring whole within which naturalism operates and from which it cannot be disengaged. Tightly connected with this polemic assertion is a methodological proposition: naturalism -and by extension capitalism -is characterized not only by its logic, but also by its asymmetrical dynamism. Focusing on Frank Norris's McTeague (and its companion piece Vandover and the Brute) and Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, this study argues that naturalism puts into question the very system it exemplifies. Naturalism has a transgressive element at its core, the appreciation of which calls for a special attention to the role and consequence of the emergent, the aleatory, and the stochastic. To explore the interplay between the systematic and the asystematic is not only to come to the conclusion that naturalism is an open, creative system, but also to realize that uneven development is the basic law of social formations.

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Editorial Reviews

Peers through well known works of the two American novelists to argue two propositions: that naturalism operates within and is inseparable from capitalism as a complex-structuring whole; and that naturalism--and by extension capitalism--is characterized not only by its logic but also by its asymmetrical dynamism. Concludes that naturalism is an open and creative system, and that uneven development is the basic law of social formations. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820439105
  • Publisher: Lang, Peter Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Series: Modern American Literature Series
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Table of Contents

1 American Literary Naturalism and the Limits of Revisionism 1
2 Ludic Naturalism: Determinacy and Indeterminacy in Vandover and the Brute 21
3 The Strategy of Desire in McTeague 57
The Economico-Libidinal Nexus of Desire 57
Passions for Drinks, Appetites for Food, and Orgies of Gold 65
The Economy of Language and the Language of Economy 77
The Semiotic Violence of Desire 86
Syntactic Involutions and Negative Precipitations 92
Tarrying with the (Il)logic of Capitalism 99
4 A Rhythmanalytical Approach to the Problematic of Everydayness in Sister Carrie 109
5 Reading the Symptom: History without Teleology 139
Notes 163
Bibliography 173
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