Life without Measure: Literary Reflections on Freedom and Commerce in Émile Zola, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Charles Dickens Open Access

Tommasi, Sean Victor (2013)

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This study discusses literary responses to economic and commercial phenomena in mid to late nineteenth-century Europe. I argue that the problem of how to freely interpret and transform a world governed by the determinative calculations of market mechanisms is central to the four novels I examine. Each novel performs in economically informed social settings the relation between aesthetic reflection and rational calculation through dynamic characters and ambiguous situations. At stake, in one way or another, is the possibility of thinking and acting beyond objective institutional limits by way of an irreducible excess of subjectivity that only comes to life through meaningful social relationships.

Table of Contents


1. Émile Zola's Taste for Business

2. Henry James and the Unknown Quantity

3. Thomas Mann and the Purpose of Money

4. Charles Dickens's Sensus Communis


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