Department of English UG Module Directory (2020)

Found records: 1/525 (Reset filters)


American Money Novels 1793-1930

Level 6 (15 credits)

We will explore the great American subject of money from the foundations of the Republic to the Jazz Age in the fictions of capital, thrift, production, high finance, self-sufficiency, and fraud. The semester will be roughly divided into four sections (Making It, Robber-Barons, Girl-Power, and Voices Like Money, each section of three or four weeks) that allow a big range of reading, thematically organised. The module will also be roughly, but not rigidly, chronological, in order to give students without a lot of experience of American literature a sense of what's there to be investigated. There will be a lecture each week, which will introduce the themes and work under scrutiny, followed by a seminar.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

I won't hide it - this module has a lot of reading consisting of short stories, essays, articles, and novels. I have found that the students who do best in their essays are the ones who are re-reading work they first read in the summer rather than reading from scratch every week. You can read from scratch in weeks when the works are shorter,  but I'd strongly recommend you tackle Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, Thoreau's Walden, Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and Wharton's The Custom of the Country ahead of the semester. We're all likely to be stuck in one place this summer, so it might be easier than usual to get this reading done.  I've marked the long works in the weekly schedule below with an asterisk. Please get in touch with me if you want further advice about summer reading or have any questions about the syllabus.

K = available on Kindle for download on computer or e-reader.

NB: this weekly schedule is from 2019-20, and the order might change very slightly (not much, though). It shows all the associated/secondary reading suggestions for each week, in case you're interested. Each week you will required to have read the primary work for the week (listed in bold); the secondary material also listed is specially chosen to assist you with primary reading, and you would be well-advised to read it, but it is not required, OTHER THAN THE SECONDARY ITEMS FOR WEEK ONE LISTED HERE AND IN 'PREPARATION'. However, your ability to use critical materials aptly in your submitted work will work in your favour.

Making It (weeks 1-4)

WEEK 1. 

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (c 1771-1790) (K) (Oxford World’s Classics) []

Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money  (1907), extracts (in module course book), 142-146; 150-152 [marked out in brackets] 

Hugh Dawson, 'Fathers and Sons: Franklin's "memoirs" as Myth and Metaphor' in Melvin H. Buxbaum, ed., Critical Essays on Benjamin Franklin (1987), 19-40 (in module coursebook)

Steven Forde, 'Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and the Education of America', American Political Science Review 86:2 (1992), 357-368 (available via JSTOR at

WEEK 2. 

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) (K) (Penguin)

Michael T. Gilmore, 'The Artist and the Marketplace in The House of the Seven Gables', English Literary History 48:1 (1981), 172-189 (JSTOR

Walter Benn Michaels, 'Romance and Real Estate' in The American Renaissance Reconsidered, eds Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 156-182 (in module coursebook)

WEEK 3. 

Edgar Allen Poe, 'The Business Man' (; Washington Irving, 'A Time of Unexampled Prosperity' [including 'The Great Mississippi Bubble'] in The Papers of Geoffrey Crayon []



*Henry David Thoreau, Walden ('Economy', 'What I Lived For', 'The Beanfield', 'Conclusion') (1854) (K) (Penguin) []

Michael T. Gilmore, 'Walden and the Curse of Trade' in American Romanticism and the Marketplace (1985), 35-51 (in module coursebook)

William Gleason, 'Recreating Walden: Thoreau's Economy of Work and Play', American Literature 65:4 (1993), 673-701 (JSTOR

Leonard N. Neufeldt, 'Thoreau's Enterprise of Self-Culture in a Culture of Enterprise', American Quarterly 39 (1987), 231-51 (JSTOR

Robber-Barons (weeks 5-8)

WEEK 5. 

*William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) (K) (Penguin);

Wai-Chee Dimock, 'The Economy of Pain: Capitalism, Humanitarianism, and the Realistic Novel' in New Essays on The Rise of Silas Lapham, ed Donald Pease (1991) (in module coursebook)


Henry Adams and Charles Adams, Chapters of Erie (1870-71), pp 1-31; 100-107 [] [also K]

Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Chapter One (Introduction) and Chapter Two (Pecuniary Emulation) [] (you may also wish to have a look at the article by Canterbery listed under week 10) 

Matthew Josephson, The Robber-Barons (1934), Chapter 6 ('The Fight for Erie'), and Chapter 14 (‘The Robber Barons),  []

Please also refer back to Howells in relation to this topic.

WEEK 7. reading week

WEEK 8. 

*Frank Norris, The Pit (1903) (K) (Penguin);

Howard Horwitz, 'To Find the Value of X': Speculation and Romance in The Pit' in By the Law of Nature: Form and Value in Nineteenth-Century America (1991), 146-67 (in module coursebook)

John F. Dawson, 'The Economic Context of Frank Norris's A Deal in WheatStudies in American Naturalism 4:2 (2009), 119-31 (SHL e-resoruce:

Adam H Wood, 'Fighting Against the Earth Itself', Studies in American Naturalism 7:12 (2012), 151-175 (SHL e-resource:

Please also refer back to the reading you did for week 5, especially Josephson and Veblen.

Girl Power (weeks 9-10)

WEEK 9. 

*Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1912) (K)(Penguin)

Charles Harmon, 'Cuteness and Capitalism in Sister Carrie', American Literary Realism, 32:2 (2000),125-139 (JSTOR

Christopher P. Wilson, 'Sister Carrie Again', American Literature, 53:2 (1981), 287-290 (JSTOR

WEEK 10. 

*Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country (1913) (K) (Penguin)

Claire Preston, 'Creative Finance: Making Money and Making Fiction in Wharton's The Custom of the Country', Q/W/E/R/T/Y: Arts, Littératures & Civilisations du Monde Anglophone 10 (2000): 57-65 (in module coursebook) 

Elaine Showalter, 'The Custom of the Country: Spragg and the Art of the Deal' in The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton, ed Millicent Bell (1995), 87-97 (in module coursebook)

Voices Like Money (week 11-12)

WEEK 11. 

Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) (Penguin); F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) (K) (Penguin);

Susan Hegeman, 'Taking Blondes Seriously', American Literary History 7:3 (1995) [

E. Ray Canterbery, 'Thorstein Veblen and The Great Gatsby', Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 297-304 []

WEEK 12. 

John Dos Passos, The Big Money (1930) - volume 3 of the USA trilogy] 

read the following sections from this novel:

1. the section called 'USA' before table of contents (begins 'The young man walks…');

2. all the 'Charley Anderson' segments [which add up to a single story];

3. the short sections entitled:

'The American Plan' [on Frederick Winslow Taylor];

'Tin Lizzie' [on Henry Ford];

'The Bitter Drink' [on Thorstein Veblen];

'Architect' [on Frank Lloyd Wright];

'Power Superpower' [on Thomas Edison and Samuel Insull]

4. the final short section called 'VAG' at the very end of the book

5. You should dip into a couple of the 'Camera Eye' and 'Newsreel' sections in order to get a sense of the book as a whole (good ones are Camera Eye 49, 50, Newsreel XLVII, LXI)

Most primary works are held in the QM library. Most exist in many editions, and I have listed the most easily available ones for purchase; you'll probably be able to find many of them used. Many of the works exist in multiple Kindle editions are all either free to download or very inexpensive (most under £1); many works exist as well in downloads from free, academically managed archive sites and I have listed those in each case where I can suggest them. A few that are still in copyright are somewhat more expensive.

Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester 1

1. Short Essay, 40%
2. Long Essay, 60%

Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Claire Preston