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Paper Money Men: Commerce, Manhood, and the Sensational Public Sphere in Antebellum America by David Anthony outlines the emergence of a “sensational public sphere” in antebellum America. It argues that this new representational space reflected and helped shape the intricate relationship between commerce and masculine sensibility in a period of dramatic economic upheaval. Looking at a variety of sensational media—from penny press newspapers and pulpy dime novels to the work of well-known writers such as Irving, Hawthorne, and Melville—this book counters the common critical notion that the period’s sensationalism addressed a primarily working-class audience. Instead, Paper Money Men shows how a wide variety of sensational media was in fact aimed principally at an emergent class of young professional men. “Paper money men” were caught in the transition from an older and more stable mercantilist economy to a panic-prone economic system centered on credit and speculation. And, Anthony argues, they found themselves reflected in the sensational public sphere, a fantasy space in which new models of professional manhood were repeatedly staged and negotiated. Compensatory in nature, these alternative models of manhood rejected fiscal security and property as markers of a stable selfhood, looking instead toward intangible factors such as emotion and race in an effort to forge a secure sense of manhood in an age of intense uncertainty.
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David Anthony is associate professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.Review:
“Paper Money Men is the product of long and careful reflection, as well as patient and wide research, by David Anthony; it is lucidly presented and meticulously organized, and his arguments are eloquently expressed. As such, it makes an original contribution to knowledge in several related areas: antebellum American literary studies, mass culture, gender studies, and the social history of antebellum America.” —Christopher Looby, professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles
“David Anthony is a remarkably original scholar who is doing paradigm-shifting work. His arguments linking gender and economic issues in nineteenth-century America are knowledgeable, sophisticated, new, and important. Paper Money Men is a knowledgeable, capacious, and often spirited study of antebellum sensational narratives, from a startling new angle. It will have a strong impact on several fields of study.” —David Leverenz, professor of English, the University of Florida
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