Imagining Capital: Debt, Trade, and the Fantasy of ‘Infinite’ Resources

Tuesday October 3, 2023
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Buchanan Tower 323

On October 3, 2023 at 3:30 pm, please join UBC English Language & Literatures for a talk by Dr. Markley (University of Illinois), entitled “Imagining Capital: Debt, Trade, and the Fantasy of ‘Infinite’ Resources.”

This event is hosted by UBC English Language & Literatures and sponsored by the UBC Public Humanities Hub and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS). A short reception will follow for in-person attendees.

Whether you choose to join us virtually or in-person, please register for the event using the link below. We look forward to hosting you.

Talk Abstract

This talk explores the complex debt structures needed to finance 17th and 18th century British voyages that juggled commercial reconnaissance, privateering, and schemes for planting colonies in Patagonia and Chile.  Revisiting the role of the Pacific in emerging theories of capitalism before Adam Smith, I argue that Daniel Defoe’s obsessive writings on what he calls “infinite Advantage” reveal the foundational fantasies—or what Jacques Derrida called a hauntology—that structure economic theories of capital accumulation. More significantly, the fantasy structure of “infinite Advantage” informs the values and assumptions of what emerges in the 18th and 19th centuries as “capitalism.”

Speaker Bio

Robert Markley is Department Head and W. D. and Sara E. Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois and editor of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation.  The author of more than 90 articles in eighteenth-century studies, science studies, the environmental humanities, and digital media, his books include Two-Edg’d Weapons: Style and Ideology in the Comedies of Etherege, Wycherley, and Congreve (Oxford UP, 1988); Fallen Languages: Crises of Representation in Newtonian England (Cornell UP, 1993); Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination (Duke UP, 2005); The Far East and the English Imagination, 1600-1730 (Cambridge UP, 2006), and a volume in the Masters of Science Fiction Series, Kim Stanley Robinson (U of Illinois P, 2019).   He has coedited with Peter Kitson Writing China: Essays on the Amherst Embassy (1816) and Sino-British Cultural Relations (Boydell and Brewer, 2016).  His current book project examines the emergence of understandings of global climate between 1500 and 1850.