New Book | Speculative Enterprise

Posted in books by Editor on March 27, 2021

From the University of Virginia Press:

Mattie Burkert, Speculative Enterprise: Public Theaters and Financial Markets in London, 1688–1763 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2021), 296 pages, ISBN 978-0813945958 (cloth), $95 / ISBN 978-0813945972 (ebook), $30 / ISBN 978-0813945965 (paper), $40.

In the wake of the 1688 revolution, England’s transition to financial capitalism accelerated dramatically. Londoners witnessed the rise of credit-based currencies, securities markets, speculative bubbles, insurance schemes, and lotteries. Many understood these phenomena in terms shaped by their experience with another risky venture at the heart of London life: the public theater. Speculative Enterprise traces the links these observers drew between the operations of Drury Lane and Exchange Alley, including their hypercommercialism, dependence on collective opinion, and accessibility to people of different classes and genders.

Mattie Burkert identifies a discursive ‘theater-finance nexus’ at work in plays by Colley Cibber, Richard Steele, and Susanna Centlivre as well as in the vibrant eighteenth-century media landscape. As Burkert demonstrates, the stock market and the entertainment industry were recognized as deeply interconnected institutions that, when considered together, illuminated the nature of the public more broadly and gave rise to new modes of publicity and resistance. In telling this story, Speculative Enterprise combines methods from literary studies, theater and performance history, media theory, and work on print and material culture to provide a fresh understanding of the centrality of theater to public life in eighteenth-century London.

Mattie Burkert is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Oregon.

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