Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 April 2022
This chapter outlines two possible approaches to geocultural analysis. In the chapter’s first section, I discuss what I call a phenomenological approach to literary texts. Scholars who adopt this mode of interpretation argue that literature provides a unique glimpse into the experiential worlds produced by capitalist systems. For such scholars, capitalism is not simply an economic system characterized by autonomous agents in a public marketplace (as envisioned by rational choice theory and free market ideology), but is instead a complex web of discrete processes, industries and modes of production, each of which organizes workers’ experiences, affects and environments in unique ways. The chapter’s second section proposes the term genre-system as a conceptual tool for examining how literary fields make sense of such contradictions by dispersing their representations of economic processes and ideologies across a range of different literary genres. Literary genres tend to render capitalism’s contradictions logically coherent by allegorizing particular stages of the production process within self-contained narrative forms. When such genres are examined together, as the constituent parts of a totalizing genre-system, it is possible to see how narrative forms work together to create a series of partial, dissonant, yet nevertheless legible representations of the capitalist world-system.