Wall Street fiction(?)

Zimmerman-Panic-coverWith the real-life dramas unfolding on Wall Street these days, it’s only a matter of time before we witness a bumper crop of novels and thrillers set in the high-stakes financial world. David Zimmerman has written about the connections between novels and markets in an earlier period of American history in Panic!: Markets, Crises, and Crowds in American Fiction.

During the economic depression of the 1890s and the speculative frenzy of the following decade, fiction writers published scores of novels that explored the new cultural visibility of Wall Street, high finance, and market crises. Blending literary, historical, and cultural analysis, Zimmerman investigates how writers turned to fledgling research in mob psychology, psychic investigations, and conspiracy discourse to understand how mass acts of financial reading and popular participation in the corporate transformation of the American economy could trigger financial disaster and cultural chaos.

A Nota Bene selection of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Panic! has received much positive review attention:

  • MFS: Modern Fiction Studies [Muse subscription required for viewing] says: “Zimmerman’s book goes a long way toward providing an imaginative and rich analysis of financial panic’s literary coordinates.”
  • Novel: A Forum on Fiction says: “Zimmerman’s book should be on the reading list not only of Americanists but also of other scholars interested in the intersections of fictional narrative and financial modernity.”
  • EH.Net Review says: “Panic! is a well-written, well-researched study and a worthy addition to the literature of economic and literary history.”
  • Business History Review [pdf] calls the book “a winner.”
  • The American Historical Review [access to Chicago Journals required] notes: “The book is rich in the anecdotes and details that capture the cultural context of the decades that straddled the turn of the twentieth century.”