Zombies, Spectres, and a 'Great Vampire Squid': Monsterized Capitalism and Financial Fear in American Gothic Fiction

  • Amy Bride

Student thesis: Phd


My PhD thesis explores American Gothic literature as having always been concerned with finance, and finance as having always been a gothic phenomenon, from 1880 to the present day. The project is split into 4 chapters, each focusing on a different historical financial mechanism as represented by a different American gothic monster that reached peak popularity in the era surrounding that financial mechanism. My research also considers the pre-existing consensus on racial readings of American gothic, and how these interpretations of the slave trade can be expanded upon in conversation with their financial contexts. Drawing on contemporary insights into financialized understandings of economics within the humanities, new analysis of finance as an inherently gothic phenomenon, and archival work completed on the Library of Congress's Black History Collection, the project aims to highlight an as yet unrecognized dimension of haunting and monstrosity within American gothic literature. Through a combination of literary critique, historical analysis, and explorations of key financial mechanisms across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the thesis also reads gothic literature, contemporary finance, and the slave trade, as intimately connected and in communication with each other, to the point where a more complete understanding of one is greatly advanced by critical analyses of the other two. My research reveals a diagnostic, rather than causal, correlation between particular American gothic monsters and specific moments of financialization across the long twentieth century. The thesis also highlights how the contemporary financial system is a direct product of the slave trade, and the ways in which the slave trade itself was also highly financialized. Finally, the project counters the recognition of finance as a key influence on gothic literature with close readings that reveal the inherent, yet previously unrecognized, gothic nature of finance capitalism.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Knight (Supervisor) & Douglas Field (Supervisor)


  • Slavery
  • United States
  • Monsters
  • Race
  • Twenty-First Century
  • Capitalism
  • Finance
  • Literature
  • Gothic
  • American Studies
  • Twentieth Century

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