What is it about?

JR was written over a twenty-year period in which the American economy shifted from primarily industrial to financial modes. This article considers how this novel uses sound as part of its representation of this economic transition and its specific social logics. It concludes by considering how musical and artistic forms operate within this financial soundscape as well as whether it is possible for these forms to interrogate their material contexts.

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Why is it important?

This article represents the first study of sound in relation to the literary representation of finance. This bridges work by sociologists and economists with cultural humanities scholarship. This piece also adds to scholarship on Gaddis as this novel (his most widely read) is composed primarily of sound. This article represents, therefore, a useful addition to the growing body of work on Gaddis that addresses this central but under-explored aspect of his writing.


My aim with this article was to show how attention to a literary text might allow us to think in imaginative terms about the matter of finance, which is all too often framed as abstract and ephemeral. I hope that readers find a way of thinking (or rethinking) how the society in which they live might be structured by financial logics and how acts of cultural reading might contribute to this understanding.

Sadek Kessous
Newcastle University

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This page is a summary of: The sound of finance: noise, music, and pension fund capitalism in William Gaddis’s JR, Textual Practice, February 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/0950236x.2019.1580214.
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