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The Difficult Art of Giving

Patronage, Philanthropy, and the American Literary Market

By Francesca Sawaya

Publication Year: 2014

The Difficult Art of Giving rethinks standard economic histories of the literary marketplace. Traditionally, American literary histories maintain that the post-Civil War period marked the transition from a system of elite patronage and genteel amateurism to what is described as the free literary market and an era of self-supporting professionalism. These histories assert that the market helped to democratize literary production and consumption, enabling writers to sustain themselves without the need for private sponsorship. By contrast, Francesca Sawaya demonstrates the continuing importance of patronage and the new significance of corporate-based philanthropy for cultural production in the United States in the postbellum and modern periods.

Focusing on Henry James, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, and Theodore Dreiser, Sawaya explores the notions of a free market in cultural goods and the autonomy of the author. Building on debates in the history of the emotions, the history and sociology of philanthropy, feminist theory, and "the new economic criticism," Sawaya examines these major writers' careers as well as their rich and complex representations of the economic world. Their work, she argues, demonstrates that patronage and corporate-based philanthropy helped construct the putatively free market in literature. The book thereby highlights the social and economic interventions that shape markets, challenging old and contemporary forms of free market fundamentalism.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Haney Foundation Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Preface. From the Harlem Renaissance

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pp. vii-x

...standard accounts of literary history, scholars argue that the mode of production for literature switches unevenly in the post-Civil War period from a system of elite patronage and genteel amateurism to what is described as the free...

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Introduction. ‘‘The Difficult Art of Giving’’

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pp. 1-38

...powerful and resilient narrative of free markets through radically ‘‘interventionist’’ methods—is central to this book. Polanyi analyzes not only the social necessity for such interventionism to stave off the worst excesses of ‘‘catastrophic...

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Chapter 1. American Generosity: Philanthropy in Henry James

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pp. 39-74

...phenomenon, it continues in modernity. In contrast to philanthropy, Gross argues, charity is linked to religious strictures and is characterized by face-to-face interaction (44–45). In the eighteenth century, charity cannot be fully distinguished...

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Chapter 2. ‘‘Livin’ on My Money’’: The Politics of Gratitude and Ingratitude in Howells

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pp. 75-99

...fortunes as a literary editor in the competitive magazine world of New York. Recent studies of Howells have convincingly argued that, in his portrayal of both the move from Boston to New York and the class and ethnic strife witnessed by his...

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Chapter 3. ‘‘The Gospel of Self’’: Philanthropy and Political Economy in Mark Twain

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pp. 100-133

...phrase deserves the scrutiny it has received: it captures the myths of essential American identity that have woven themselves around Twain’s authorship—that of the self-made man...

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Chapter 4. ‘‘That Friendship of the Whites’’: Patronage and Philanthropy in Charles Chesnutt

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pp. 134-161

...commitments as a writer, and the racism and isolation he faces in his chosen vocation. Concluding his summary, Chesnutt says he decided not to send his ‘‘long letter,’’ but...

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Chapter 5. ‘‘Inexplicable Tangles of Personality’’: Patronage, Philanthropy, and Progressive Irony in Theodore Dreiser

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pp. 162-185

...Emphasizing the apparently impersonal forces that are working beyond Cowperwood’s control, Dreiser metaphorically describes the Chicago fire and resulting financial panic as a ‘‘storm’’ that ‘‘burst unexpectedly out of a clear sky, and bore no relation to the...

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pp. 186-188

...in liberal economics over interventionism in the ‘‘free market.’’ Defenders of liberal capitalism, as well as corporate capitalists, realized that ‘‘the miseries everywhere being suffered’’ (Spencer, 285) in the economically and socially volatile...


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pp. 189-226


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pp. 227-242


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pp. 243-246

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pp. 247-254

...thank Josh Piker and Naima Sawaya enough or in words that are adequate. Josh read and re-read the book and improved the conception and expression of everything in it. Naima did many other things than read the book, and her joy in all those...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812290035
E-ISBN-10: 0812290038
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246308

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Haney Foundation Series
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OCLC Number: 884615827
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Difficult Art of Giving

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Authors and patrons -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Case studies.
  • Authors and patrons -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Case studies.
  • Economics and literature.
  • Authors and patrons in literature.
  • Philanthropists in literature.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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