Money talked in sixteenth-century England, as money still does today. But what the sixteenth century's gold and silver had to say for itself is strikingly different from the modern discourse of money. As David Landreth demonstrates in The Face of Mammon, the material and historical differences between the coins of the English Renaissance and today's paper and electronic money propel a distinctive and complex assessment of the relation between material substance and human value.
Although the sixteenth century was marked by the traumatic emergence of conditions that would prove to be characteristic of the modern economy, the discipline of economics had not been invented to assess those conditions. The Face of Mammon considers how literary texts investigated these unexplained material transformations through attention to the materiality of gold and silver money. In new readings of Spenser's Faerie Queene, Marlowe's Jew of Malta, three plays by Shakespeare-King John, The Merchant of Venice, and Measure for Measure-the poetry of John Donne, and the prose of Thomas Nashe, Landreth argues that these texts situate the act of exchange at the center of a system of "common wealth" that sought to integrate political, ethical, and religious values with material ones, and probe the ways in which market value corrodes that system even as it depends upon it.
Joining the methods of material-culture studies to those of economic criticism, The Face of Mammon offers a new account of the historical transformations of the concept of value to scholars of early modern literature, culture, and art, as well as to those interested in economic history.
"The Face of Mammon is a refreshing addition to the steadily growing body of scholarship on money in the literature of the early modern period.... Landreth's richly evocative book is at its best when he discusses the ethical, religious, and political implications of the materiality of actual coins and the images stamped on them, a subject to which he returns throughout the book." --Modern Philology "[A] striking, consistently intelligent study...The critic writes sharply and wittily throughout.... [T]his is a book that Elizabethanists in general, and Shakespeareans in particular, will not want to miss. Highly recommended." --CHOICE "I don't know what to admire more: David Landreth's nuanced account of price inflation in the sixteenth century, his detailed descriptions of the debasement and clipping of coinage, his philosophical grasp of the ontology of the money form, or his striking and original readings of early modern authors. This is an indispensable contribution to our understanding of economy and literature." --Richard Halpern, author of Shakespeare's Perfume: Sodomy and Sublimity in the Sonnets, Wilde, Freud, and Lacan "If, as the saying goes, 'money talks,' its most loquacious avatar is the Mammon of early modern writing. And Mammon's most astute listener is David Landreth, who hears in the prosopopeia that lends voice to early modern money the prehistory of capitalist conceptions of matter, value and social relations." --Jonathan Gil Harris, author of Shakespeare and Literary Theory "Landreth offers a fascinating account of the ways in which the matter of money mattered in Tudor England by revealing the many faces Mammon assumed in a wide array of literary and cultural texts. We have always known that money talks; Landreth teaches us how to listen." --Natasha Korda, author of Labors Lost: Women's Work and the Early Modern English Stage "[A] splendid book." --Renaissance Quarterly
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 29th March 2012
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.2 x 16.4 x 3.0
Weight (kg): 0.62