What We Are Reading Today: Cents and Sensibility 

Updated 06 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Cents and Sensibility 

AUTHORS: Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro

In Cents and Sensibility, an eminent literary critic and a leading economist make the case that the humanities — especially the study of literature — offer economists ways to make their models more realistic, their predictions more accurate, and their policies more effective and just.

Arguing that Adam Smith’s heirs include Austen, Chekhov, and Tolstoy as much as Keynes and Friedman, Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro trace the connection between Adam Smith’s great classic, The Wealth of Nations, and his less celebrated book on ethics, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

The authors contend that a few decades later, Jane Austen invented her groundbreaking method of novelistic narration in order to give life to the empathy that Smith believed essential to humanity. 

More than anyone, the great writers can offer economists something they need—a richer appreciation of behavior, ethics, culture, and narrative. 


What We Are Reading Today: Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery by Jonathan Lamb

Updated 18 November 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery by Jonathan Lamb

  • Lamb traces the cultural impact of scurvy during the 18th-century age of geographical and scientific discovery

Scurvy, a disease often associated with long stretches of maritime travel, generated sensations exceeding the standard of what was normal. Eyes dazzled, skin was morbidly sensitive, emotions veered between disgust and delight. In this book, Jonathan Lamb presents an intellectual history of scurvy unlike any other, probing the speechless encounter with powerful sensations to tell the story of the disease that its victims couldn’t because they found their illness too terrible and, in some cases, too exciting.

Drawing on historical accounts from scientists and voyagers as well as major literary works, Lamb traces the cultural impact of scurvy during the 18th-century age of geographical and scientific discovery. He explains the medical knowledge surrounding scurvy and the debates about its cause, prevention, and attempted cures. He vividly describes the phenomenon and experience of “scorbutic nostalgia,” in which victims imagined mirages of food, water, or home, and then wept when such pleasures proved impossible to consume or reach. 

Lamb argues that a culture of scurvy arose in the colony of Australia, which was prey to the disease in its early years, and identifies a literature of scurvy in the works of such figures as Herman Melville, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Francis Bacon, and Jonathan Swift.

Masterful and illuminating, Scurvy shows how the journeys of discovery in the eighteenth century not only ventured outward to the ends of the earth, but were also an inward voyage into the realms of sensation and passion.