English Professor Tom Peyser
January 2010 saw the publication of two articles by R-MC
English Professor Tom Peyser, whose book Utopia and Cosmopolis: Globalization
in the Era of American Literary Realism (Duke University Press, 1998)
reviewers have called “dazzling,” and who has been praised for his “wide reading
in political theory and cultural critique” and for having “the signal virtue of
thinking beyond the pieties of contemporary critical practice” (Modern Philology).
Peyser’s work exemplifies Randolph-Macon College’s emphasis on connections between
the disciplines. In his new book chapter “Capitalist Vistas: Walt Whitman and Spontaneous
Order,” he applies insights of Nobel-prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek to
Whitman’s apparently chaotic poetry, arguing that Whitman was trying to accustom
his readers to the hurly-burly of a dynamic market economy. The essay appears in
Literature and the Economics of Liberty, and may be read by clicking here.
Peyser’s second essay, “The Princess Casamassima and the Theatrical Cosmopolis,”
appeared in the journal American Literary Realism, and examines Henry James’s
novel about socialist terrorists in Victorian London, using philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche’s analysis of the corrosive effect of globalization on nationality as
a jumping-off point.
Peyser’s forthcoming essay on Edgar Allen Poe reads the Virginia author through
the lens of the nineteenth-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, and
he is at work on articles dealing with Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Frederick
Peyser joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1994. He earned his A.B.
from Harvard University, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and received
his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He is former president of the
Randolph-Macon chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.