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

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

by Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace
     
 

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…  See more details below

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.

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.
Booknews
Looks at the literary representation of women who were hungry for consumer products, how they were portrayed paradoxically as sometimes supremely disciplined and at other times disruptive and disorderly. Within the context of changes both in the meaning of consumption and in the ideological construction of the female subject, argues that society projected onto women both its fondest wishes for the transforming power of consumerism and its deepest anxieties about its corrupting influence. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231105781
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
12/05/1996
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
6.27(w) x 9.29(h) x 0.68(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.

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