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Money, Commerce, Language, and the Horror of Modernity in ‘The Isle of Voices’

Money, not merely as subject in literature but also in its very form and function, exhibits qualities of spectral evanescence, fetishised power over the imagination, and the uncontrollable transgression of boundaries and limits, which closely parallel the concerns and anxieties of Gothic literature. Yet it is in the writings of economic theorists and commentators on market society like Adam Smith and Karl Marx that these Gothic anxieties about money are most clearly articulated. Stevensons short story ‘The Isle of Voices’, read in the context of his comments on money in his other writings, is one of the few fictional texts which uses these properties of money to create what might be called a ‘financial Gothic’ narrative, which nevertheless has insights and implications for the narratives of capitalist modernity in general.

Gothic Studies