Literature and Business explores the representation of modern commerce, corporate and entrepreneurial life, financial and legal structures in industrial and advanced capitalism, doctrines of prosperity and economic growth, and the emotional, moral, and social life of women and men working in business from the early-mid-1800s to the present. In addition, we will consider the latest literature on financialization and on the so-called “creative economy” to think about how the arts, the humanities, and business intersect in our world today. The course is open to a mix of undergraduates from the College and Wharton.
The core materials in Literature and Business are classic and contemporary novels ranging in tone and genre, from sentimental to satirical, from family saga to spiritual autobiography. Secondary readings will extend backward to Adam Smith and Max Weber and forward to present-day accounts of business ethics and the economic future, providing students with intellectual and historical contexts that anchor the primary readings. The syllabus centers on European and American traditions but expands into a necessarily global framework, including Asian and African diasporic commerce.
Primary readings will include novels by Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saul Bellow, Tom Wolfe, Jane Smiley, Dave Eggers, Mohsin Hamid, and Lydia Millett. Graded requirements will include one essay on fiction (1500 words), one essay on film adaptation (1500 words), and a longer research project that culminates in a paper, poster, slideshow, webpage, presentation, or video. Possible topics for research projects: Financial crash films, family business sagas, the rags-to-riches genre over time, spiritualized banking, office criminals, sex and speculative economies, literature as business strategy, overseas trading narratives, the entrepreneur as Robinson Crusoe, African-American mobility in business, the queer workplace, science fiction capitalism, Wall Street espionage, and more.