Political Economy and the Novel

Winter 2018-2019


Sam Rowe

The artform we now call the novel and the discipline we now call the economics both have their roots, to some degree, in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Britain. In this interdisciplinary course, we will study novels alongside early works of political economy in order to put the disciplines of literary studies and economics in conversation. The course will be organized around three themes--production, consumption, distribution--and three corresponding novels--Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Maria Edgeworth's Ennui, and Charles Dickens' Hard Times. We will consider important works of political economy (by Bernard Mandeville, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill), radical responses to political economy (by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Robert Owen, and Karl Marx), and relevant contemporary readings (including Sylvia Federici, Gary Becker, David Graeber, and Thomas Piketty). The course will begin with a selection of classical works from the Vedic, Judaic, and Greek traditions establishing the deep roots of humanistic economics. (Fiction, 1650-1830, Theory)