Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shaviro Presents Gilded Age Literature And Inequality Today At Stanford

ShaviroDaniel N. Shaviro (NYU) presents Gilded Age Literature and Inequality today at Stanford:

We are an intensely social species, and often a rivalrous one, prone to measuring ourselves in terms of others, and often directly against others.  Accordingly, relative position matters to our sense of wellbeing, although excluded from standard economic models that look only at the utility derived from own consumption of commodities plus leisure.  For example, people can have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy, creating the potential for extreme wealth differences to invoked feelings of superiority and inferiority, or dominance and subordination, that may powerfully affect how we relate to each other.

The tools that one needs to understand how and why this matters include the sociological and the qualitative.  In my book-in-progress, Dangerous Grandiosity: Literary Perspectives on High-End Inequality Through the First Gilded Age, I use the particular tool of in-depth studies of particular classic works of literature (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice  through Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier and The Titan) that offer suggestive insights regarding the felt experiences around high-end inequality at different times and from different perspectives. A successor volume will carry this account through the twentieth century and up to the present.

Commentator:  Elizabeth Anker (Cornell)

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Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" and "Democracy" (a book which was released anonymously and whose authorship was the matter of speculation for decades before Henry Adams claimed it) are two Gilded Age works that, save for the lack of technology, might as well have been written fifteen minutes ago.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 17, 2018 5:27:01 PM