Abstract: The Gilded Age -- the time when the nation’s egalitarian ideals get overwhelmed by an acceptance of corporate capitalism, unbridled accumulation, and social inequality. Not quite. According to historian Richard White and literary critic Gavin Jones, the Gilded Age saw surprising responses to the embarrassment of riches. Why did political thinkers want an economy geared not to increase prosperity but to produce independent, republican citizens? Why did the literature consumed by the prosperous classes equate wealth not with success but with a deep sense of personal failure? White and Jones ask these and other questions as they confront the larger question asked by Gilded Age writers and political thinkers alike: How much is enough?
Gavin Jones is the author of Strange Talk: The Politics of Dialect Literature in Gilded Age America and American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty in U.S. Literature, 1840-1945. He is currently completing a book about American literature's obsessive efforts to describe and theorize the experience of failure.
Richard White is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading scholars in the American West, Native American history, and environmental history. He is the author of several books, including The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, which was named a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize, and his 2011 book, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. Among other honors, White is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
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