© 2018

Political Economy and the Novel

A Literary History of "Homo Economicus"

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 1-27
  3. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 29-61
  4. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 63-92
  5. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 93-132
  6. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 173-208
  7. Sarah Comyn
    Pages 249-254
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 255-283

About this book


Political Economy and the Novel: A Literary History of ‘Homo Economicus’ provides a transhistorical account of homo economicus (economic man), demonstrating this figure’s significance to economic theory and the Anglo-American novel over a 250-year period. Beginning with Adam Smith’s seminal texts – Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations – and Henry Fielding’s A History of Tom Jones, this book combines the methodologies of new historicism and new economic criticism to investigate the evolution of the homo economicus model as it traverses through Ricardian economics and Jane Austen’s Sanditon; J. S. Mill and Charles Dickens’ engagement with mid-Victorian dualities; Keynesianism and Mrs Dalloway’s exploration of post-war consumer impulses; the a/moralistic discourses of Friedrich von Hayek, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; and finally the virtual crises of the twenty-first century financial market and Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. Through its sustained comparative analysis of literary and economic discourses, this book transforms our understanding of the genre of the novel and offers critical new understandings of literary value, cultural capital and the moral foundations of political economy.


political economic writings literary networks homo economicus American novels American literature novel theory genre theory John Maynard Keynes economics in novels Adam Smith The Theory of Moral Sentiments The Wealth of Nations Henry Fielding A History of Tom Jones: a foundling Ricardian economics Jane Austen Sandition J.S. Mill Charles Dickens Don DeLillo Ayn Rand

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University College DublinDublinIreland

About the authors

Sarah Comyn is Postdoctoral Fellow on the ERC-funded project SouthHem at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Political Economy and the Novel
  • Book Subtitle A Literary History of "Homo Economicus"
  • Authors Sarah Comyn
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-94324-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-06834-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-94325-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XII, 283
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Literary Theory
    Literary History
    Economic Policy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


Political Economy and the Novel: A Literary History of ‘Homo Economicus’ offers an engaging, well-researched, and original look at the reciprocal relationship between economic theory and imaginative literature, beginning with Adam Smith and Tom Jones in the 18th-century and ending with cryptocurrencies in the 21st century. Sarah Comyn showcases the impressive breadth and scope of economic thinking over a range of historical periods and across national borders, and offers exciting new ways of thinking about liberal individualism, character, and the novel. ” (Lana Dalley, Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics, CSU Fullerton, USA)