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Research Interests

Joanna Rostek


Book Projects:

Women's Economic Thought in the Romantic Age: Towards a Transdisciplinary Herstory of Economic Thought (forthcoming with Routledge in 2020)

My transdisciplinary book – which draws on literary studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and economics – explores the place of English women in the history of economic thought. Traditionally, the decades between 1770 and 1830 are seen as the ‘birth’ of modern economics. While men classical political economists of that period are widely known – e.g. Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, or David Ricardo – there is no study to date exploring women’s economic thought at that time. In view of this, my book firstly seeks to explain why this gap has been so persistent, and secondly, to fill it by presenting and discussing selected examples of English women's economic writing around 1800. My overall aim is to pave the way for a better understanding and acknowledgement of women's contributions to the economy and to economic thought.

Building on, among others, approaches from feminist economics, I demonstrate in the first part of the study that there is an androcentric bias at the heart of economics: our notions of what constitutes economic enquiry, economic topics, and economic genres of writing have for centuries privileged a vantage point that excludes the perspectives and experiences of women and that marginalises the type of knowledge women have generated and recorded in, among others, literary texts. This has resulted in an underrepresentation of women in the canon of economic theory, with manifest consequences for economic practice up to this day. I argue that redressing this imbalance calls for a transdisciplinary methodology that bridges the gap between literary studies, cultural studies, gender studies, history, and economics. Using such a transdisciplinary methodology in the second part, I present and discuss selected women writers' analyses of the economics of marriage, of women and paid work, and of moral economics. I draw on literary texts, pamphlets, and memoirs by Sarah Chapone, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Mary Robinson, Priscilla Wakefield, Mary Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen.

My book reveals that once the androcentric bias of mainstream economics is recognised and removed and a transdisciplinary perspective adopted, the Romantic Age proves a treasure trove of economic thought by English women. Contrary to what standard accounts of the history of economic thought suggest, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century women thinkers were participating in economic discourse and developing original ideas. They formulated demands for equal pay, investigated how women could earn money, negotiated property and marital rights, criticised cultural norms that led to women’s economic marginalisation, and challenged the institutionalisation of male economic privilege. Their critiques of the patriarchal economy expose the extent to which gender and economic outcomes are interlinked. They form an important counterpart to writings by men classical political economists and shed light on the history of women’s struggle for economic enfranchisement.

Seaing through the Past: Postmodern Histories and the Maritime Metaphor in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction [Info] [Table of contents]

From Daniel Defoe to Joseph Conrad, from Virginia Woolf to Derek Walcott, the sea has always been an inspiring setting and a powerful symbol for generations of British and Anglophone writers. Seaing through the Past is the first study to explicitly address the enduring relevance of the maritime metaphor in contemporary Anglophone fiction through in-depth readings of fourteen influential and acclaimed novels published in the period 1978-2005. I argue that in contemporary fiction, maritime imagery gives expression to postmodernism's troubled relationship with historical knowledge, as theorised by scholars such as Hayden White and Linda Hutcheon. I interpret the novels against the backdrop of four aspects of metahistorical problematisation. Thus, for example, I read Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea (1978) in the context of auto/biographical writing, John Banville's The Sea (2005) as a narrative of personal trauma, Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989) as investigating the connection between discourses of origin and the politics of power, and Fred D'Aguiar's Feeding the Ghosts (1997) as offering a postcolonial perspective on the sea and colonial history.

Seaing through the Past was published in 2011 by Rodopi/Brill and in 2012 won the dissertation award of the German Association for the Study of English (Deutscher Anglistenverband).