Models of Value

Eighteenth-Century Political Economy and the Novel

Models of Value

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: Published: January 1996

Author: James Thompson

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

James Thompson examines the concept of value as it came to be understood in eighteenth-century England through two emerging and divergent discourses: political economy and the novel. By looking at the relationship between these two developing forms—one having to do with finance, the other with romance—Thompson demonstrates how value came to have such different meaning in different realms of experience. A highly original rethinking of the origins of the English novel, Models of Value shows the novel’s importance in remapping English culture according to the separate spheres of public and domestic life, men’s and women’s concerns, money and emotion.
In this account, political economy and the novel clearly arise as solutions to a crisis in the notion of value. Exploring the ways in which these different genres responded to the crisis—political economy by reconceptualizing wealth as capital, and the novel by refiguring intrinsic or human worth in the form of courtship narratives—Thompson rereads several literary works, including Defoe’s Roxana, Fielding’s Tom Jones, and Burney’s Cecilia, along with influential contemporary economic texts. Models of Value also traces the discursive consequences of this bifurcation of value, and reveals how history and theory participate in the very novelistic and economic processes they describe. In doing so, the book bridges the opposition between the interests of Marxism and feminism, and the distinctions which, newly made in the eighteenth century, continue to inform our discourse today.
An important reformulation of the literary and cultural production of the eighteenth century, Models of Value will attract students of the novel, political economy, and of literary history and theory.


“In this brilliant contribution to the history of the novel, Thompson argues that both the novel and political economy are parallel responses to a crisis in the way English society measured, embodied, and exchanged value.” — Lennerd J. Davis, Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Models of Value makes one of those reconceptualizations of a literary and cultural field that seems obvious only in retrospect; that is to say that once one thinks of the novel’s cultural functions in relation to those of political economy, it is hard to see how past discussions of the novel have managed to ignore the crisis in ‘value’ addressed in eighteenth–century concerns with money and monetary function.” — Kristina Straub, Carnegie Mellon University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James Thompson is Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Models of Value 1

1. Representation and Exchange 15

2. Money as Sign 40

3. Defoe and the Narrative of Exchange 87

4. Fielding and Property 132

5. Burney and Debt 156

Conclusion: Austen and the Novel 185

Notes 199

Works Cited 251

Index 267
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1721-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1711-1
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