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Going 'Round in Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country

Going 'Round in Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country
1 Devonshire Place, Room 208N
Time: Apr 14th, 3:00 pm End: Apr 14th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS)
Lecture by Cristina D'Amico, Ph.D. candidate, English

The Graduate Student Workshop at the Centre for the Study of the United States is pleased to present

Cristine D'Amico, Ph.D. candidate, English

Going 'Round in Edith Wharton's "The Custom of the Country"

In A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton, Cynthia Griffin Wolff famously argues that in The Custom of the Country (1913) “one thing and one thing only is genuinely fixed; and that is a preoccupation with energy.” In this paper, D'Amico revises Wolff’s claim and argues that Custom is equally if not more preoccupied with the limitations placed on energy and movement. Given that the novel is described as Wharton’s most “self-conscious treatment of the market,” this paper draws out the economic logic structuring the text. To ground this narrative, D'Amico places the novel in the context of U.S. economic history – Wharton composes Custom between 1907 and 1913, a trajectory that maps on the Panic of 1907, and the resulting establishment of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. Debates on the merits of the Federal Reserve turn on the same contradiction we see emerging in Wharton’s novel: does the fixation of capital ensure its smooth functioning and perpetuity but also undermine its ability to achieve surplus? At the, D'Amico asks how the novel’s presentation of this contradiction through the figure of can help us rethink established paradigms of market subjectivity in literary criticism.

Cristina D’Amico is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. Her SSHRC-funded dissertation reads 19th-century American literature’s attempts to address the formal, aesthetic, and philosophical limitations of “possessive individualism,” C.B. Macpherson’s useful term for describing what he calls “the proprietary logic of western political ontology.” She is especially interested in representations of unorthodox houses in American fiction as alternative expressions of political subjectivity. D’Amico has contributed academic writing to Esquire: Journal of the American Renaissance and The Howellsian: Journal of William Dean Howells Studies.

This event is free but registration is required.  Click HERE to register. For further information, please contact the Centre for the Study of the United States at csus@utoronto.ca or (416) 946-8972.

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