From Gift to Commodity
Capitalism and Sacrifice in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction
Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies
Published by: University of New Hampshire Press
296 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 x 0.80 in
- Published: September 2012
In this rich interdisciplinary study, Hildegard Hoeller argues that nineteenth-century American culture was driven by and deeply occupied with the tension between gift and market exchange. Rooting her analysis in the period's fiction, she shows how American novelists from Hannah Foster to Frank Norris grappled with the role of the gift based on trust, social bonds, and faith in an increasingly capitalist culture based on self-interest, market transactions, and economic reason. Placing the notion of sacrifice at the center of her discussion, Hoeller taps into the poignant discourse of modes of exchange, revealing central tensions of American fiction and culture.
"Hoeller's treatment of the ways in which the '(ir)responsibility' and '(im)possibility' of gifting permeate 19th-century American fiction affords valuable perspectives. . . . Hoeller effectively considers feminist, new economic, Marxist, and historicist approaches. . . . Her discussion of Howells in the 'overlooked' category of gift theory merits attention, and the argument regarding Norris's McTeague and its depiction of 'the lethal realm of the antigift' is simply splendid. . . . Highly recommended."—CHOICE