Alisa Zhulina, Theater of Capital: Modern Drama and Economic Life – Northwestern University Press, January 2024

Alisa Zhulina, Theater of Capital: Modern Drama and Economic Life – Northwestern University Press, January 2024

Reads canonical works of modern drama in relation to the economic ideas of their era

Emerging amid the turbulent rise of market finance and wider socioeconomic changes, modern drama enacted vital critiques of art and life under capitalism. Alisa Zhulina shows how fin-de-siècle playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw, and Gerhart Hauptmann interrogated the meaning of this newly coined economic concept. Acutely aware of their complicity in the system they sought to challenge, these playwrights staged economic questions as moral and political concerns, using their plays to explore the theories of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Max Weber, and others within the boundaries of bourgeois theater.

Theater of Capital: Modern Drama and Economic Life reveals the prescient and unsettling visions of life in a new financial and societal reality in now-canonical plays such as A Doll’s HouseMiss Julie, and The Cherry Orchard as well as in lesser-known and long-overlooked works. This wide-ranging study prompts us to reevaluate modern drama and its legacy for the urgent economic and political questions that our present moment.

“An extraordinary book whose scope and ambition are truly impressive. Alisa Zhulina works hard to overcome the academic silos that separate the humanities from economic theory by recuperating a more expansive notion of economics—that of the oikos—to put them in a productive exchange. All of this is executed with the highest rigor, intelligence, and creativity, and grounded in an expansive knowledge of the materials. There aren’t many scholars today who can match Zhulina’s linguistic and intellectual range.” —Leonardo Lisi, Johns Hopkins University 

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