Consuming Subjects: British Women and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century

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Overview

Consuming Subjects is an insightful exploration of the origin of the modern idea of women as shoppers. Kowaleski-Wallace considers the origins of current ideas about women and consumerism to call into question the "natural" link between women and the commodities they buy.

While previous scholars have posited the nineteenth-century department store and arcade as the crucial place for understanding the emergence of the female consumer, Kowaleski-Wallace argues that the eighteenth century yields a keener understanding by allowing us to view the foundations of contemporary cultural practices.

Drawing on feminist criticism, cultural studies, and new historical ideas, she surveys eighteenth-century literary texts, material objects -such as china- and cultural events to illuminate the ways in which women are both controlled and empowered through images of consumption. Kowaleski-Wallace links the rise of shopping to the appearance of modern pronography: like pornography, shopping embodies a cultural fantasy, claiming to locate and control female "pleasure."

This elegant study is an important contribution to eighteenth-century studies and will appeal to a broader audience of readers interested in feminist and cultural issues.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Laura Brown
A smart, insightful, and timely account of the centrality of consumption in the eighteenth century, showing in a series of provocative readings of cultural materials how an association with consumption serves to constitute the modern female subject.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231105798
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace is Assistant Professor of English at Boston College. She is author of Their Fathers' Daughters: Hannah Moore, Maria Edgeworth, and Patriarchal Complicity, and coeditor, with Patricia Yaeger, of Refiguring the Father: New Feminist Readings of Patriarchy.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
The Tea Table
Tea 19
Sugar 37
China 52
Shopping
Introduction: Commodities 73
Shops and Shoppers 79
Pornography 99
Business
Businesswomen 111
Prostitutes 129
Conclusion 145
Notes 159
Index 181
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