Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction

By David A. Zimmerman

312 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 13 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5687-1
    Published: May 2006
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7736-4
    Published: December 2006
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7979-0
    Published: December 2006

Cultural Studies of the United States

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Awards & distinctions

A Nota Bene selection of The Chronicle of Higher Education

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 in the period 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' attitudes toward securities markets, popular investment, and financial catastrophe were entangled with their conceptions of gender, class, crowds, corporations, and history. Zimmerman investigates how writers turned to mob psychology, psychic investigations, and conspiracy discourse to understand not only how financial markets worked, but also how mass acts of financial reading, including novel reading, could trigger economic disaster and cultural chaos. In addition, Zimmerman shows how, by concentrating on markets in crisis, novelists were able to explore the limits of fiction's aesthetic, economic, and ethical capacities. 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.

About the Author

David A. Zimmerman is associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
For more information about David A. Zimmerman, visit the Author Page.


"Provides fascinating readings of both forgotten writers and more familiar ones. . . . At the vanguard of an emerging scholarly interest in the culture of the market."--Journal of American Studies

"Rich in the anecdotes and details that capture the cultural context of the decades that straddled the turn of the twentieth century."--American Historical Review

"Panic is filled with keen insights. . . . It importantly resuscitates stories and recasts tropes from early twentieth century America."-Literature & History

"Provocative and thoughtful. . . . Zimmerman reveals a world of ideas that intellectual and cultural historians will find fascinating. . . . A worthy, fascinating addition to the growing scholarship that seeks to explore and explain the cultural history of capitalism."--Journal of American History

"Meticulously researched and equally well-written. . . . Thorough and masterful. . . . Zimmerman himself has scored a victory with this book. Panic! Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction is a winner."--Business History Review

"A fascinating study. . . . Should be on the reading list not only of Americanists but also of other scholars interested in the intersections of fictional narrative and financial modernity."--Novel