Bridging the Gap: Economics and Literature
The objective of this study is to bring together two usually discrete disciplines, Economics, commonly considered part of the Social Sciences, and Literature, part of the Humanities. This interdisciplinary approach will attempt to demonstrate how each of these disciplines can be enlightened by the other. We will begin our discussion with an overview of the development of Economics as a distinct discipline, a phenomenon that really only came to fruition within the last two hundred years or so. Subsequently, we will delve below the macro-economic surface of nineteenth-century France, England, and America in order to reveal in some of the great literary works of this period the nature of numerous burgeoning economic institutions, for example, banking and financial markets, that will manifest to varying degrees and in different arenas, the level of economic progress that we notice in each of these countries over the course of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. In France, we will investigate some of the works of Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Emile Zola in order to investigate how cultural forces influenced the economic conditions that are depicted in such works as Le Père Goriot, Les Misérables and Au Bonheur des Dames. In our discussion of the pertinent literature in the England of this time period, we will look to the works of Charles Dickens, Hard Times for example, while closing our study with a consideration of works from American literature such as William Dean Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham and Sinclair Lewis’ The Jungle.. These works bring will bring into focus the question of social responsibility in the business arena and show how the new commercial system could challenge existing human values.
Keywords: Interdisciplinary Study, Economics, Literature
Dr. Harold Lawber
Professor, Department of Business and Economics, Salve Regina University
Dr. Katherine Lawber
Professor, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Salve Regina University