Andrew Kopec, an assistant professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne, specializes in American literature to 1900. Bringing a literary studies approach to the new history of capitalism, which has typically addressed the institutions and personalities of finance, Kopec’s scholarship shows how early American literature exposes the social, material,  psychological, and formal underpinnings of market culture. The nation’s earliest economic crises are especially useful contexts for this work, given their status as “shock-experiences,” in Walter Benjamin’s term: events in which the everyday and the historical, the national and the international, the personal and the economic, the literary and the social coalesced. In a prehistory to the well-documented financialization of US culture that took root across the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Kopec argues in his first book, “The Pace of Panic: American Romanticism and the Business Cycle,” that romanticism’s signature optimism and the era’s business fluctuations were less antagonistic than intimately intertwined.

Beyond “The Pace of Panic,” Kopec’s research follows two paths. First, expanding his work on early American literature and economic history, he has begun a second book-length study tentatively titled “Forecasted Futures.” As is well-known among scholars of early modernity, the colonial project in the New World demanded innovations in investing and risk-assessment. Literary writers, ranging from the colonial governor John Winthrop to the ex-slave Olaudah Equiano, from the proto-feminist Judith Murray Sargent to the novelist Charles Brockden Brown, tackled these very problems, seeking in their writing ways to tame future uncertainty and thereby lessen risk. Arguments that explore these themes appear in the journals ELH (“Fiction, Finance, and Eliza Wharton’s ‘Awful Futurity’ in Early America” [Winter 2017]) and The Eighteenth Century (“Collective Commerce and the Problem of Autobiography in Equiano’s Narrative” [Winter 2013]).

Second, working in the new field “critical university studies,” Kopec’s other scholarship tries to understand the digital humanities as embedded in prior literary-critical debates that shaped the profession across the Twentieth Century. Inspired by John Crowe Ransom’s “Criticism, Inc.” and a digital scholar’s “Style, Inc.,” Kopec’s essay “The Digital Humanities, Inc.,” which appeared in PMLA (March 2016), reads close and distant reading as a dialectic that turns to literary studies’ (seemingly perilous) future. In “Data Trouble: Literary Studies and the Quantitative Imaginary,” he presented new work – a historicist take on non-normative quantitative methods in literary studies from the Twentieth Century – as an invited speaker at Penn State.

Along with his partner, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Kopec lives with their two daughters, dog, and cat in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

CV (PDF) – Academia.edu profile – @AndrewJKopec – ajkopec@purdue.edu

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