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Affective calculations: Literary texts about economic speculation

Financial speculation is seen as non-emotional and abstract, but literary texts describe intense 'market emotions'. The project analyzes the relation between speculation and emotion in literature.

Project No. G 408

Nina Peter

How do fictional texts depict and reflect the tension between the abstract organization of the financial market on the one hand and its emotional qualities on the other hand? The project aims at answering this question by analyzing four texts from different time periods, written by Émile Zola, Frank Norris, Don DeLillo and Elfriede Jelinek.

These plays and novels comment and deliberate the question of what happens when emotions turn away from the physical-material environment – the ‘real world’ – and instead turn to semiotic representations. Thus, they not only focus on correlations between mediality and emotionality, but also reflect literature’s potential to emotionalize: They develop an analogy between the fictional worlds of literary texts and the semiotic ‘world’ of finance and focus on differences and similarities in the reception of these ‘sign-based’ areas of experience. Apart from that, literary texts develop different models of emotional ‘dealing’ within the financial market and thus contribute to the discourse on economic speculation. The project aims at describing and analyzing these two aspects in exemplary close readings.


Comparative literature


Prof. Dr. Oliver Lubrich