From Gift to Commodity

Capitalism and Sacrifice in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction

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In this rich interdisciplinary study, Hildegard Hoeller argues that nineteenth-century American culture was driven by and deeply occupied with the tension between gift and market exchange. Rooting her analysis in the period’s fiction, she shows how American novelists from Hannah Foster to Frank Norris grappled with the role of the gift based on trust, social bonds, and faith in an increasingly capitalist culture based on self-interest, market transactions, and economic reason. Placing the notion of sacrifice at the center of her discussion, Hoeller taps into the poignant discourse of modes of exchange, revealing central tensions of American fiction and culture.

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