Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the notion that capitalism has become too abstract for all but the most rarefied specialists to understand has been widely presupposed. Yet even in academic circles, the question of abstraction itself – of what exactly abstraction is, and does, under financialisation – seems to have gone largely unexplored – or has it? By putting the question of abstraction centre stage, How Abstract Is It? Thinking Capital Now offers an indispensable counterpoint to the ‘economic turn’ in the humanities, bringing together leading literary and cultural critics in order to propose that we may know far more about capital’s myriad abstractions than we typically think we do. Through in-depth engagement with classic and cutting-edge theorists, agile analyses of recent Hollywood films, groundbreaking readings of David Foster Wallace’s sprawling, unfinished novel, The Pale King, and even original poems, the contributors here suggest that the machinations and costs of finance – as well as alternatives to it – may already be hiding in plain sight. This book was originally published as a special issue of Textual Practice.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Capital’s abstractions Rebecca Colesworthy
1. ‘Paradise falls: a land lost in time’: representing credit, debt and work after the crisis Nicky Marsh
2. To think without abstraction: on the problem of standpoint in cultural criticism Timothy Bewes
3. Materialism without matter: abstraction, absence and social form Alberto Toscano
4a. An exchange with Susan Stewart Susan Stewart, Rebecca Colesworthy and Peter Nicholls
4b. Abstraction set Susan Stewart
5. From capitalist to communist abstraction: The Pale King’s cultural fix Stephen Shapiro
6. The bodies in the bubble: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King Richard Godden and Michael Szalay
7. Shareholder existence: on the turn to numbers in recent French theory Emily Apter
Rebecca Colesworthy is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English at New York University, New York City, USA, and holds an English Ph.D. from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. She has published a number of articles on literature, theory, and gender studies, and is currently completing a manuscript on modernism and the gift.
Peter Nicholls is Henry James Professor of English and American Letters at New York University, New York City, USA. His publications include Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing (1984), Modernisms: A Literary Guide (1995, 2009), George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism (2007, 2013), and many articles and essays on literature and theory. He has recently co-edited On Bathos (2010) and Thinking Poetry (2013).