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Victorian Literature and Finance$
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Francis O’Gorman

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199281923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281923.001.0001

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The Drama of Capital: Risk, Belief, and Liability on the Victorian Stage

The Drama of Capital: Risk, Belief, and Liability on the Victorian Stage

(p.91) 5 The Drama of Capital: Risk, Belief, and Liability on the Victorian Stage
Victorian Literature and Finance

Jane Moody

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Victorian drama and its dealings with risk and liability. Here, The Poor of New York is presented as a striking example of a wider issue: the dramatization of scenes from advanced capitalism, particularly the transformation of financial danger into theatrical display, which occurred diversely on the Victorian stage. Analysing interwoven financial relationships, the chapter establishes the common elements of trust, illusion, and deceit that bound capital and drama together and which were knowingly exploited to produce what is called the ‘capitalist aesthetics of Victorian sensation culture’. The cultural form of 19th-century drama is uncannily like capital itself because it is ‘built on appearances, characterised by insoluble contradiction, and defined by extreme forms of distortion’: in the age of high capitalism, drama accordingly acquired a peculiar diagnostic power.

Keywords:   finance, Victorian literature, Britain, risk, liability, drama, capitalism, trust

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