Paul Crosthwaite

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature


Paul Crosthwaite studied at Newcastle University (BA, MLitt, PhD). He was a Lecturer in English Literature and member of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University for four years before joining Edinburgh in 2011. His publications include Speculative Time: American Literature in an Age of Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2024), The Market Logics of Contemporary Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and Trauma, Postmodernism, and the Aftermath of World War II (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); articles in PMLA, American Literary History, Angelaki, Cultural Critique, Cultural Politics, The Journal of Cultural Economy, New Formations, Public Culture, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Textual Practice, and The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory;  and, as editor, Criticism, Crisis, and Contemporary Narrative: Textual Horizons in an Age of Global Risk (Routledge, 2011), Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance, 1700 to the Present (Manchester University Press, 2014), and The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Economics (2022). Paul's co-authored book on the history of financial advice writing - Invested: How Three Centuries of Stock Market Advice Reshaped Our Money, Markets, and Minds - was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2022.

Research summary

Paul’s research explores the interface between literary and cultural innovation and historical change in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Over the past decade, his work has focused on the multiple modern and contemporary intersections between literature, culture, and economics.

His latest book, Speculative Time: American Literature in an Age of Crisis (in Oxford University Press's Studies in American Literary History series), examines how a climate of financial and economic speculation and disaster shaped the literary culture of the United States in the early to mid-twentieth century. It argues that speculation’s risk-laden and crisis-prone temporalities had major impacts on writing in the period, as well as on important aspects of visual representation. It situates the stock market gyrations of the 1920s and 1930s within a wider culture of speculation that was profoundly shaped by, but extended well beyond, the brokerages and trading floors of Wall Street. The early to mid-twentieth century was a “speculative time,” an age characterized by leaps of economic, political, intellectual, and literary speculation; and the notion of speculative time provides a means of understanding the period’s characteristic temporal modes and textures, as evident in work by figures including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Nathan Asch, William Faulkner, Federico García Lorca, James N. Rosenberg, Margaret Bourke-White, Archibald MacLeish, Christina Stead, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison.

Paul's previous monograph, The Market Logics of Contemporary Fiction (in Cambridge University Press's Studies in Twenty-First-Century Literature and Culture series), shows how contemporary British and American authors have internalized the market logics of the financial sector and book trade. The result is the widespread production of works of “market metafiction” in which authors reflect obsessively on their writing’s positioning in the literary marketplace. The book reveals the entanglement of fictional narrative and market dynamics to be the central phenomenon of contemporary literary culture. It engages with work by key authors including Iain Sinclair, Don DeLillo, Kathy Acker, Bret Easton Ellis, Chris Kraus, Percival Everett, David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead, Anne Billson, Hari Kunzru, Barbara Browning, Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, Tao Lin, Nell Zink, Joshua Cohen, Sheila Heti, and Garth Risk Hallberg. An essay arising from this project was awarded the 2012 Arthur Miller Centre Prize for the year's best journal-length American Studies essay by a member of the British Association for American Studies.

Paul's wider work in what's increasingly referred to as the "Economic Humanities" has resulted in two edited collections and numerous journal articles and book chapters. With Peter Knight and Nicky Marsh, he co-wrote the field-surveying "Economic Criticism" chapter of The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory for four years. He is also co-editor of the series Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture, and Economics and The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Economics (2022) with Knight and Marsh.

As a Co-Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded History of Financial Advice project, Paul co-authored a book on the popular culture of investment advice from the eighteenth century to the present; it was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2022.

Paul would welcome research proposals on any of the authors or in any of the areas indicated above.

Project activity

Paul was a Co-Investigator, with Professor Peter Knight (Manchester) and Professor Nicky Marsh (Southampton), on an AHRC-funded curation project that resulted in an exhibition entitled 'Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance, 1700 to the Present'. Drawing on the investigators' research, the exhibition charted the changing ways in which artists and illustrators have depicted the abstract and mystifying domain of 'the markets', from the South Sea Bubble of the early eighteenth century to the credit crunch of the present. 'Show Me the Money' opened at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland in June 2014 and subsequently toured to the Chawton House Library in Hampshire, the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, and the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Paul has also been a Co-Investigator, with Knight, Marsh, Dr Helen Paul (Southampton), and Dr James Taylor (Lancaster), on an AHRC-funded project on the History of Financial Advice. The project traces the stock market investment advice genre from its origins in the print culture of eighteenth-century London to its explosion across multiple platforms and media in the present. A collaboration between economic historians and scholars in literary and cultural studies, the History of Financial Advice is an example of the emerging interdisciplinary field of the Economic Humanities. The project demonstrates how bringing humanities perspectives to bear on financial history and financial literature helps us to understand the elements of fantasy, imagination, and desire that shape popular participation in financial markets. The project resulted in a high-profile article for American Literary History and a book with the University of Chicago Press.

View all 44 publications on Research Explorer