Crisis in the Kingdom of Money: Representations of Systems, Class, and Work in the Fictions of the Global Financial Crisis
In the 15 years since 2008 literature has now had time to reckon with the worst financial collapse in contemporary history. This thesis studies four works of fiction concerned with the Global Financial Crisis, examining how they depict the crisis and illustrate ideas around its broader social impact. The four novels chosen were published across the 2010s and deal in varying ways with the financial collapse: NW (2012) by Zadie Smith, In the Light of What We Know (2014) by Zia Haider Rahman, Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers (2016) and Emily St John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel (2020). Ultimately, this project argues that fiction uses the crisis as a revealing instrument, showing problems that had been there all along but were built into the very understanding of the financial system. The novels are studied in tandem, weaving analysis of each across three chapters that deal with systems of abstraction, class, and work, respectively. The first chapter unpacks depiction of the crisis within fiction, and how it is framed as a culmination of the system itself. The second chapter examines how preconceived ideas of class interact with the crisis, and how inequality is built into the modern understanding of the class system. The final chapter examines how ideas of identity, upward mobility and morality in the workplace are left reshaped by the financial collapse.