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IDSEMUG 2027 - Literature and Liberalisms: Mobile Individuals, Free Markets, and Novel Forms

Liberalism seems in many ways deeply imbricated in the novel form: not only does the rise of Classical Liberal thought parallel the emergence of the novel as a dominant literary form in the nineteenth century, but the novel in its focus on the individual in quest of a secure place in a social field, often represented as an independent actor in the marketplace, is arguably a genre invested in theorizing liberalism. This course takes this hypothesis as a means of examining both the protean form of the novel and unpacking the complicated term “liberalism.” We will begin with some key novels by nineteenth-century authors, interlacing our reading of fiction with critical analyses of key texts in the history of liberal thought. In the latter part of the course, we will think about the way in which more recent novels engage with the emergence of neoliberalism in the mid-20th century, a formation characterized by the shrinking of the state and the expansion of the global market; as described by the political theorist Wendy Brown, it involves “the transposition of the constituent elements of democracy into the economic register.” Throughout we will attempt to understand the novel as a literary form that inscribes economic and political experience in an affective register, while seeking greater understanding of these two sometimes opaque-seeming terms, liberalism and neoliberalism. Readings may include Dickens, Gaskell, Forster, Conrad, Ghosh, Adichie, Smith, Mill, Marx, Brown, Harvey, among others. Add Consent: Department Consent Required.
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