With the growth of modern capitalism, economics emerges as a crucial form of knowledge production in the nineteenth century. However, due to society’s patriarchal structures, the concept of an ‘economic subject’ essentially refers to male individuals whereby women were excluded from the prevalent discourse in political economy. Yet, there is an archive of female characters in narrative fiction who are economic subjects. In this regard, narrative fiction presents a useful resource that intersects productively with economics because novels play an active role in shaping economic thought; they have the potential to challenge, critically engage with, work through and re-imagine a specific society’s understanding of the economy. Therefore, it is worth reconsidering and re-examining narrative fiction of the nineteenth century in terms of their engagement with economic theory construction to provide a new and complex critical narrative. In order to take the ‘economic woman’ into account, orthodox economic theories need to be revalued, with feminist economics taking a crucial role.
Working at the interface of literary criticism and economic theory, I will demonstrate how narrative fiction of the long nineteenth century puts forth theoretical arguments by critically engaging with implicit biases prevalent in political economic theories of the time. I will provide close readings of texts from Great Britain, one of the most pivotal areas for the emergence of both modern capitalism and modern economic thought. Furthermore, a re-evaluation of both primary texts and critical narratives perpetuated will make for a more inclusive account of British understandings of the economy in the nineteenth century. This PhD thesis will contribute to current discourses both in feminist economics and literary economic theory, as well as to the emerging, highly specialised field of literary feminist economic theory.