• "The Cash Nexus": Realism and Conspiracy in Balzac and Dickens

    Author(s):
    Ben Carver (see profile)
    Date:
    2019
    Subject(s):
    Realism, Comparative literature, Nineteenth century, English fiction, Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870, Mackintosh, H. R. (Hugh Ross), 1870-1936
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Tag(s):
    Honore de Balzac, conspiracy fiction, 19th-century comparative literature, Victorian novel, Charles Dickens, H. R. Mackintosh
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/a7ks-ny43
    Abstract:
    This chapter argues that the basis for Honoré de Balzac’s early stories and Charles Dickens’s last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend is the circulation of money, which allows narrative point of view into every living room and place of work where money can be borrowed or owed. Not only does this means of representing the life of a city require the presence of a money-lender, the plots are structured by the figures of conspiracy that oversee or pursue the movement of finance across the social range. The moneylender ‘Gobseck’, for instance, the titular character boasts of his ‘gaze like God’s’ and that ‘nothing is hidden from me’, a claim that is supported by his membership of a secretive group of financiers whose networks of credit enable the near omniscience associated with realism. Dickens’s novel also includes a Jewish moneylender, though he is merely a figurehead (and lightning rod) for the predatory business, Pubsey and Co. This chapter studies how the lines of suspicion and surveillance in these works are attached to the circulation of commodities, and how the conspiracist plots rely on such networks of suspicion and debt. The chapter also confronts the persistence of racist stereotypes associated with moneylending to the point where in contemporary politics, it has become hard to distentangle criticism of capitalism from the reinscription of anti-Semitism. What is the mantra of the ‘realist’ conspiracy theorist of political life if not ‘follow the money’?
    Notes:
    This is a pre-print version of the chapter, which will be included in a volume (Routledge) on Literary Form and Conspiracy Culture.
    Metadata:
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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