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Poets of Promotion: Corporate personality and crowd psychology in Guy Thorne and Leo Custance’s Sharks (1904)

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  • Jakob Gaardbo Nielsen

This article deals with the relationship between fin-de-siècle crowd psychology and joint-stock companies in late Victorian and early Edwardian financial novels, most notably Guy Thorne and Leo Custance's Sharks (1904). This satirical novel is not only an anatomy of the turn-of-The-century joint-stock economy, but also a critical examination of the legal principle of corporate personality and the ontology of the financial corporation. Tracing the launch and life of a ridiculously speculative joint-stock company, and employing a central metaphor of emergent corporative agency drawn from contemporary crowd psychologists such as Gustave Le Bon, the novel applies the formal logic of incorporation as a narrative principle and constructs a dystopic, farcical vision of the possibilities inherent in joint-stock companies for organizing, ordering, and connecting individuals. The article argues that, by positing the corporate person as a beheaded Leviathan, the novel portrays joint-stock business, and particularly the promotion of new companies, as an eminently imaginative kind of work, involving not simply the dissemination of financial information, but also an affective preconditioning of the investing public by means of an excessive production of texts across the period's booming print industries.

TidsskriftJournal of Victorian Culture
Sider (fra-til)103-118
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2021

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