Panic!: Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction David A. Zimmerman
During the economic depression of the 1890s and the speculative frenzy of the following decade, Wall Street, high finance, and market crises assumed unprecedented visibility in the United States. Fiction writers published scores of novels that explored this new cultural phenomenon. In Panic!, David A. Zimmerman studies how American novelists and their readers imagined - and in one case, incited - market crashes and financial panics. Panic! examines how Americans' understandings of and attitudes toward securities markets, popular investment, and financial catastrophe were entangled with their conceptions of gender, class, crowds, and history. Blending literary, historical, and cultural analysis, Zimmerman investigates how writers turned to fledgling research in mob psychology, psychic investigations, and conspiracy discourse to understand how mass acts of reading and popular participation in the corporate transformation of the American economy could trigger financial disaster and cultural chaos. In addition, Zimmerman shows how writers, by experimenting with sensationalism, sympathy, the sublime, melodrama, and naturalism, explored the limits of fiction's aesthetic, economic, and ethical capacities in their portrayals of markets in crisis. With readings of canonical as well as lesser-known novelists, Zimmerman provides an original and wide-ranging analysis of the relation between fiction and financial modernity.