Finance and Fictionality in the Early Eighteenth Century: Accounting for Defoe
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In the early eighteenth century, the increasing dependence of society on financial credit provoked widespread anxiety. Texts of credit stock--certificates, IOUs, bills of exchange--were denominated as potential "fictions," while the potential fictionality of other texts was measured in terms of the "credit" they deserved. Sandra Sherman argues that the work of Daniel Defoe, which straddles both finance and literature, epitomizes the market's capacity to unsettle discourse, and to blur the distinctions between finance and fiction.
have been true. In the end, the issue of sequentiality is secondary, since I want to explore the phenomenon of a shared financial/literary discursive. How was this phenomenon experienced? I argue that long-term credit implicated the culture in a new kind of narrativity, since promises in stocks, annuities, and negotiable instruments were verifiable only with time. Until the moment of payoff, narrative verged on potential fiction. The homology between a bill endorsed by a dozen signers, drawn
culture as it is presented in Roxana] it is the hinge establishing an homology with the discourse of credit. As I shall argue in chapter 5, Roxaha's narrative dramatizes the vulnerability of texts that aspire to such radical disengagement. The preface therefore proposes a paradigm that the Story threatens to deconstruct. Though the Relator stands in place of the "Lady, whose Words he speaks," he is only a feature in the text's middle distance, complicating its reception with his own possible
for certainty is counterproductive. Best allow a certain qualification and be content. When the Tradesman begins "joyning together" with others: he is certain that all the rest are Bankrupts, as he is sure they are men; they could not engage in the manner they do else, for they will endorse for any sum and never dispute the securities, but either if they endorse for you, you must do the like for them, or if they endorse they have a part of the money for their own occasions, only giving a note to
discourse, he is an ideal (ized) author. He can dismiss the fictivity of excessive substantiation. At the same time, H. F.'s immersion in a plague scene that fluctuates as much as phenomena in the market, allows his responses to reflect on the wider population of authors. He inscribes a model text, aspiring to a "truth" consistent with the limits of textuality in an uncertain milieu. He is not so much a still point outside the market, as he is inside a larger compass of discourse. What applies to
inassimilable contingency of linear history, finally destroys her."14 In revising her appearance, Roxana's recourse to less elegant dress relies on the principle invoked in the preface to Roxana, whose Relator may be "dressing up the Story in worse Cloathes than the Lady, whose Words he speaks, prepar'd it for the World." Both Roxana, and the eponymous text circulating in the market, attempt to deflect attention from the "real" author of the text (in Roxana the "History" will "speak for itself" -