Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite: Monetized War, Militarized Money—A Narrative Poetics for the Closing of an American Century

  • Richard GoddenEmail author
Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)


Given that only massive infusions of international credit sustained both the miraculous illusions of the neoliberal turn in America, and the viability of the dollar as a global reserve currency, one may fairly ask: How may a debt factory operate as the world’s bank, or a deficit dollar convince as the world’s money? Short answer, tithe extraction by way of a militarization of US global practices after the Korean War and throughout US engagements in Vietnam, Syria, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror. Accordingly, this chapter seeks to trace a structural conjunction between two sectors of the economy, finance and the military, enhanced by a proliferation of declared and undeclared wars. The latter produce “risk” and “volatility” as tradable matter that the former recasts as profit via derivative investment. Between September 2001 (the falling Towers) and September 2008 (the Crunch), the Bush administration invoked a New Empire and a New American Century (each lasting seven years), resting on unprecedented military expenditure and mortgage backed “securities,” both financed by way of credit from abroad, much of it flowing into a risk driven financial sector.

To find the financier in the G.I.’s wound (the raw material of war) and the G.I. in the financier’s throat is to relocate what the linguist V.N. Volosinov would call “the organizing center of any utterance,” and indeed of “the whole route between inner experience (‘the expressible’) and its outward objectification (‘the utterance’)” within a social territory tacitly conditioned by what Randy Martin described as “derivative wars,” conducted on behalf of “monetary imperialism” (Michael Hudson). This chapter traces the stylistic choices and narrative form of Jayne Anne Phillips’ novel, Lark and Termite (2009) to generative contradictions resting at the structural core of monetized war.

Works Cited

  1. Albo, Greg, Sam Gindin, and Leo Panitch. 2010. In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives. Oakland: Spectre/P M Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bacevich, Andrew. 1984. The Limits of Power. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008.Google Scholar
  3. Custers, Peter. n.d. Questioning Globalized Militarism. Monmouth: Merlin Press.Google Scholar
  4. Desai, Radhika. 2013. Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalisation and Empire. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  5. Dvorchak, Robert J. 2003. Battle for Korea: The Associated Press History of the Korean Conflict. New York: De Capo Press.Google Scholar
  6. Eliot, George. 1872. Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life. Vols. 1 and 2. Philadelphia: Lippincott and Co.Google Scholar
  7. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. 2004. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scriber.Google Scholar
  8. Harvey, David. 2005. The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2013. A Companion to Marx’s Capital, Volume 2. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  10. Ho, Karen. 2009. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hudson, Michael. 2003. Super Imperialism: The Origins and Fundamentals of U. S. World Dominance. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  12. Kliman, Andrew. 2011. The Failure of Capitalist Production. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  13. Koistinen, Paul. 2012. State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945–2011. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  14. Lapavitsas, Costas. 2003. Printing Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  15. Lewis, Michael. 2015. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  16. Mandel, Ernest. 1980. Late Capitalism. Trans. De Bres Joris. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  17. Marazzi, Christian. 2008. Capital and Language. Trans. Gregory Conti. Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Martin, Randy. 2007. An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Marx, Karl. 1981. Capital, Volume 3. Trans. David Fernbach. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1990. Capital, Volume 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  21. Phillips, Jayne Anne. 1993. Machine Dreams. London: Faber.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2009. Lark and Termite. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  23. Retort. 2005. Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  24. Ricoeur, Paul. 1978. The Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination and Feeling. Critical Inquiry 5 (1, Autumn): 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Volosinov, V.N. 1973. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. New York: Seminar Press.Google Scholar
  27. von Clausewitz, Carl. 1974. On War. Ed. and Trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IrvineUSA

Personalised recommendations