The Society for Critical Exchange
1995 Midwest Modern Language Association Panels
New Economic Criticism
The Society for Critical Exchange sponsored a mini-conference on the New Economic Criticism at the 1996 Midwest Modern Language Association convention in Minneapolis. Three sessions were held on Friday, Nov. 8, 1996, beginning at 8:30 in the morning and continuing into the afternoon. The three sessions were:


Session I
1. "'Rash Speculation' and 'Rational Calculation': The Crisis of 1825 and the Emergence of the 'Science' of Political Economy." Tatania Holway, Macalester College
2. "Portrait of Homo Economicus as a Young Man." Susan Feiner, University of Southern Maine
3. "Henry James and the Business of Women in The Portrait of a Lady." Charis Bower, Tiffin University
Discussion and Comments: Max Thomas, University of Iowa
1. "Economic Symbols: The Place of Gender in the New Economic Criticism," by Elsie Michie, Louisiana State University
2. "The Business of Utopia: Bradford Peck's The World a Department Store." Vivian Wagner, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
3. "In the Red: Plenitude and Exchange in the Economy of (Cultural) Information." M. David Westbrook, U of Michigan .
Discussion and comments: John Barbaret, Case Western Reserve University
Discussion and debate in both sessions was lively and wide-ranging. In keeping with M/MLA practice, papers were distributed to interested attendees ahead of time, and panelists gave brief remarks about their own papers as well as comments about others' papers. Discussions during Part I centered on the blind spots or gaps in classical and neoclassical economic models, and on the problems that arise when one attempts to move outside of any closed system to comment upon it.
For Part II, discussion focused on the relevance and problems inherent in literary critics' use of economic terms (e.g., "economy," "exchange," "capital") in ways not sanctioned by the discipline of economics. What are the limits of these homologies? Is it legitimate to use "economy," for example, to refer to any system of exchange that is not actually economics? What is, actually, economics? The comments of Susan Feiner were particularly helpful in outlining what economists mean when they use specific terms.

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