Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form

Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form

by Anna Kornbluh


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During a tumultuous period when financial speculation began rapidly to outpace industrial production and consumption, Victorian financial journalists commonly explained the instability of finance by criticizing its inherent artifice—drawing persistent attention to what they called “fictitious capital.” In a shift that naturalized this artifice, this critique of fictitious capital virtually disappeared by the 1860s, replaced by notions of fickle investor psychology and mental equilibrium encapsulated in the fascinating metaphor of “psychic economy.”

In close rhetorical readings of financial journalism, political economy, and the works of Dickens, Eliot, and Trollope, Kornbluh examines the psychological framing of economics, one of the nineteenth century’s most enduring legacies, reminding us that the current dominant paradigm for understanding financial crisis has a history of its own. She shows how novels illuminate this displacement and ironize ideological metaphors linking psychology and economics, thus demonstrating literature’s unique facility for evaluating ideas in process. Inheritors of this novelistic project, Marx and Freud each advance a critique of psychic economy that refuses to naturalize capitalism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823280384
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 918,000
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Anna Kornbluh is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She coordinates InterCcECT, the Inter Chicago Circle for Experimental Critical Theory, and is a founding member of the V21 Collective (Victorian Studies for the Twenty-First Century).

Table of Contents



Introduction. “A Case of Metaphysics”: Realizing Capital

1. Fictitious Capital/Real Psyche: Metalepsis, Psychologism, and the Grounds of Finance

2. Investor Ironies in Great Expectations

3. The Economic Problem of Sympathy: Parabasis and Interest in Middlemarch

4. “Money Expects Money”: Satiric Credit in The Way We Live Now

5. London, Nineteenth Century, Capital of Realism: On Marx’s Victorian Novel

6. Psychic Economy and Its Vicissitudes: Freud’s Economic Hypothesis

Epilogue: The Psychic Life of Finance


Works Cited


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