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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

The Invention of the Lottery Fantasy: A Cultural, Transnational, and Transmedial History of European Lotteries

Alternative title: Lotteridrømmens opprinnelse: europeiske lotteriers kulturelle, transnasjonale og transmediale historie

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

The project aims to produce new knowledge of the cultural, political, and financial impact of what we call "the lottery fantasy", the idea of a sudden, life-changing wealth through the big prize in the lottery. We will examine the lottery fantasy as a cultural figure as it circulated between countries, languages, and different medial forms in Europe, both in the eighteenth century and today. State-sanctioned lottery institutions are important agents in European economy, through the financing of sports, culture, and charitable organisations. At the same time, their position as a public body for the organisation of gambling has repeatedly been subject for debate, from the birth of the state-sanctioned lotteries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries until today. The debate has been centred around political and moral issues connected to gambling addiction, social inequality and the relationship between state and citizen. The project will examine the role that the cultural figure of the "lottery fantasy" played in this political and financial development, by studying its invention and circulation in the eighteenth century. A group of international researchers consisting of literary scholars, book- and cultural historians will map and analyse the lottery fantasy in a large array of cultural and medial forms of expression: newspapers, periodicals, almanacs, visual art, literature and theatre. By examining how the lottery fantasy was transmitted, criticised, parodied and played with in European culture in the eighteenth century, we aim to produce new knowledge of the impact of state-sanctioned lotteries in the emergence of the modern European state, as well as of the role played by art and culture in modern political economy and in the relationship between state and citizen.

This project examines the invention of the ‘the lottery fantasy’: the dream of financial improvement and social ascension through a sudden, life-changing reversal of fortune. Responding to the present lack of knowledge of the cultural framework of the European lottery institution, the project will produce new knowledge on the cultural foundations underlying the emergence of state-sanctioned lotteries in Europe and their impact on the economic and political development of the modern European state. The project is the first systematic scholarly endeavour aimed at uncovering and examining the historical importance of the lottery as a financial institution, as a political and moral issue, and as a broad cultural phenomenon. It will examine how the development of the state-sanctioned lottery institution altered the social fabric of European societies in and beyond the eighteenth century, how the lottery fantasy helped reconfigure the relationship between citizen and state in the same period, and how present-day lottery institutions are still affected by these processes. By drawing on state-of-the-art theoretical explorations into the intersections between literature, culture and economy, combined with perspectives from games studies, book history and periodical studies, the project will provide a systematic and elaborate analysis of the intimate connections between cultural expressions of the lottery and its role in the social and economic realities of Europe in and beyond the eighteenth century, and thus also make an important contribution to new approaches to finance and politics within the Humanities. It combines historical research, textual criticism, and visual analysis, applied on a large-scale corpus, consisting of printed texts and visual art from Italy, France, Britain, Denmark-Norway, and the German- and Dutch-speaking areas.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam