Talk by Jonathan Paine: "Selling the Story – Balzac, Dostoevsky and Economic Criticism"


Zoom talk

How does writing for money affect what is written?

Dr. Jonathan Paine’s talk draws on the main themes of his book, Selling the Story: Transaction and Narrative Value in Balzac, Dostoevsky, and Zola, published by Harvard University Press in 2019. Combining close readings of works by Balzac and Dostoevsky with detailed analyses of the nineteenth-century publishing contexts in which prose fiction first became a product, his paper will discuss how the business of literature affects even literary devices such as genre, plot, and repetition. He argues that no book can be properly understood without reference to its point of sale: the author’s knowledge of the market, of reader expectations, and of his or her own efforts to define and achieve literary value. The proposition redefines economic criticism as an undervalued tool of literary criticism.

The talk should be of interest to those interested in French and Russian literature, in economic criticism and the role of economics in literary analysis, and to students of Comparative Literature.

Dr. Jonathan Paine is a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and Senior Advisor and former Managing Director at the investment bank Rothschild & Co. He serves as the treasurer of the International Dostoevsky Society.

Zoom link TBA

Contact Information

Anna Berman
anna.berman [at]
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