Economics and the empathic imagination: a literary history of homo economicus through the Anglo-American novel
Author(s)Comyn, Sarah Felicit??
economics and literature
John Stuart Mills
John Maynard Keynes
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Abstract?? 2013 Dr. Sarah Felicit?? Comyn
This thesis examines the interplay between economic theory and novelistic discourse as it converges in the portrayal of homo economicus in six Anglo-American novels. Adopting a transhistorical approach, through the juxtaposition of economic and literary texts that illuminate historical moments crucial to the development of both discourses from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, the thesis argues that the novel is an evaluative medium that works to confirm and/or critique the figure of homo economicus. Beginning with Adam Smith???s seminal texts, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations, and Henry Fielding???s A History of Tom Jones: a foundling, this thesis uses comparative analysis to investigate the transformations of the homo economicus model as it traverses through Ricardian economics and Jane Austen???s Sanditon; J.S. Mill and Charles Dickens??? mid-Victorian perspectives; Keynesianism and Mrs Dalloway???s exploration of post-war consumer impulses; the a/moralistic discourses of Friedrich von Hayek and Ayn Rand???s Atlas Shrugged; and finally the virtual crises of the twenty-first century financial market and Don DeLillo???s Cosmopolis. Examining the economic and novelistic discourses comparatively, this thesis explores the manner in which the novel offers an investigation into and a critical account of the psychological, socio-cultural, and moral aspects of homo economicus that the economic vision of rational egoism often ignores. Recognising and examining the discourse of moral philosophy that political economic theory emerges from, and the emotional and imaginative insights of economic theory???s origins, my analysis will, simultaneously identify and investigate the category of the empathic imagination in the origins of political economic theory and the novel, and its implications for the development and understanding of homo economicus.
Comyn, S. F. (2013). Economics and the empathic imagination: a literary history of homo economicus through the Anglo-American novel. PhD thesis, School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.