Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Modern German Literature, Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, Cornell University
Stories of the System: Capital’s Representation in Crisis

My dissertation project analyzes relations between capitalist crisis and modern German literature since the 19th-century. Specifically, I trace how literary narrative offers insights into issues of representation posed by an economic system whose logic both demands and eludes scientific conceptualization, especially at moments of crisis. While scholarship at the intersection of literature and economics, and on narrative and political economy in particular, has focused on literary narrative's role in disseminating or underpinning dominant ideologies, I argue that literary narratives of capitalism do not simply affirm historical ideologies. Rather, they provide terms for reimagining capital's representability as an aesthetic problem and thus draw attention to the sorts of techniques and devices which, if not adequate for grasping capitalism's systemic complexity, at least offer insight into the specific nature of its unrepresentability. In this way, I shift attention from ideology critique, which has a long-established tradition in the field, to what I argue is a more productive assessment of cognitive modes available for diagnosing structural complexities and contradictions of capitalism as a global economic system. By tracing how literary narrative addresses capital's representability in moments of crisis, I seek to answer the following questions: How do narratives make sense of economic reality? What narratives of capital underwrite political economy as a discipline? What problems does capitalism pose for its representation as a system, particularly as its instruments of value such as financial derivatives resist simple theorization? And can literature address these problems in a different manner than economic thought? The particular contribution my project makes involves tracing those narrative devices that become available as adequate modes for grasping and at times even resisting the changing logics of a capitalist system of value relations.