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The Work of Genre: Labor, Identity, and Modern Capital in Wordsworth and Verga

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Extract

Few nineteenth-century authors were as prescient as william wordsworth and giovanni verga in grasping what karl marx referred to as capitalism's power to accelerate the “wheel of history” (64). Although neither writer speculated directly on the capitalist system, each manipulated literary form to show how the new free-market ethos affected the lives of workers and, more broadly, the relation between personal and professional identity. Wordsworth's poem “Michael” (1800) and Verga's novel I Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree [1881]) explore how a traditional type of labor, shepherding in “Michael” and fishing in I Malavoglia, is transformed by the advent of modern capital. This essay considers how shifts in labor suggest a literary transformation, as elements of genre in each work—the pastoral in Wordsworth's lyric, the epic in Verga's novel—are rendered obsolete by new networks of discourse pegged to modern economic practices.

Type
Theories and Methodologies
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by The Modern Language Association of America

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