James Tissot, La Partie Carrée

Anthony Trollope: Finance, Fraud, and Fiction

Instructor: Christine Smallwood
558 St. Johns Place
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Anthony Trollope’s 1873 novel The Way We Live Now is a vitriolic attack on “a certain class of dishonesty,” written, in the author’s words, with “the whip of the satirist.” It is a splenetic, splendid, and pessimistic account of financial speculation, fraud, fortunes won and lost, and engagements delayed and broken. Badly reviewed when it was published, it is now considered something like a masterpiece. In this course, we will read the entirety of The Way We Live Now alongside portions of Trollope’s Autobiography and critical texts. We will situate The Way We Live Now in terms of the specific historical episodes it references as well as asking what this book has to teach us about the crises of our own time. What sort of fraud can it be when “everyone knows” about it? What is the narrative structure of the open secret?

We will pay special attention to the way Trollope’s characters think—how they agonize, deliberate, vacillate, and delay making choices. What do these habits of mind have to teach us about contemporary political dysfunction? What does Trollope have to say about agency, affect, power, the nature of self-deception, the meaning of a promise (or a half-promise), and the ethics of comfort? What does it feel like to think? Other subjects of discussion will include anti-Semitism, Trollope’s politics, and his (failed) political ambitions.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 04 — June 25, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open

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