Absurd speculations: The tragedy of development in Maria Edgeworth's Ormond

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This essay explores shared concerns regarding the representation of economic development that occurs in Maria Edgeworth's Irish bildungsroman Ormond (1817) and in Johann Wolfang von Goethe's two-part tragic retelling of the Faust myth (1808, 1832), building on recent interest in the representation of money in literature from the romantic period. While these two literary works are often seen as foundational texts in their respective national literatures, they both also explore the damning effects of economic and social development, especially through the medium of paper money. To this end, I examine the representation of paper money in Goethe's Faust Part Two and of the capitalist ventures of Sir Ulick O'Shane in Ormond in order to situate more firmly Edgeworth's writing within the broad European literary and social landscape. By focusing on the tragic representation of modernizing economics in these two works, it becomes obvious that Edgeworth, like Goethe, participates in and advances the formation of a modern world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-314
Number of pages24
JournalNineteenth-Century Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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© 2016 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.


  • Economics in literature
  • Faust
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Maria Edgeworth
  • Ormond


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