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Literature IncorporatedThe Cultural Unconscious of the Business Corporation, 1650-1850$
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John O'Brien

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226291123

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226291260.001.0001

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Held in Reserve

Held in Reserve

Banks, Serial Crises, and the Ekphrastic Turn

(p.186) Chapter Five Held in Reserve
Literature Incorporated

John O’brien

University of Chicago Press

The Panic of 1837 was the financial crisis that set the pattern for such paroxysms of instability in the financial system ever since. This chapter explores the importance of the figure of the bank in the years that followed the Panic, particularly as it was deployed in works of fiction by Harriet Martineau, Robert Morris, and Edgar Allan Poe. Such works share a key rhetorical feature with the writings of economists in that they deploy the figure known as ekphrasis, the “speaking picture,” invoking images to mark the place where narration fails to convey the full complexity of their text’s meaning. The chapter ends with a reading of Poe’s “The Gold Bug” as incorporating a screen memory of the labor and violence that subtended the global economic system.

Keywords:   banking, money, ekphrasis, Harriet Martineau, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Morris

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