Module Identifier ENM6420  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr Christoph Lindner  
Semester Semester 1  
Pre-Requisite Good honours degree  
Co-Requisite ENM0120 , ENM0220 , Three other MA option modules  
Course delivery Seminar   10 Hours (5 X 2 hours)  

Brief description

What is retail therapy? Why is shopping fun? Where does desire end and ideology begin in a world of mass consumption? Engaging with such questions, this module explores how writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sought to represent and come to terms with the rise of consumer culture. Moving through the naturalism of Emile Zola and Theodore Dreiser to the modernism of Joseph Conrad and Aldous Huxley, we will focus in particular on the impact of consumerism on narrative vision and literary practice.

Seminar Programme

1. The rise of consumer culture
Themes for discussion: what is consumerism? historical and social background, cultural conditions, material forms, literary responses.
Main text: David Hawkes, Ideology

2. Shopping for Pleasure
Themes for discussion: flanerie, fetishism, desire, spectacle, exhibition, gender and seduction.
Main text: Emile Zola, The Ladies' Paradise

3. The Metropolis on Display
Themes for discussion: urban growth, metropolitan culture, predatory consumers, domesticity, gender and performance.
Main text: Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie

4. Decadence and Decay
Themes for discussion: urban space, constructing time, anarchy, pornography, gender and politics.
Main text: Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

5. Everything for Sale
Themes for discussion: dystopias, mass culture, consumer psychology, discourse, agency, subjectivity.
Main text: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Set Texts

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (Penguin Classics)
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (Penguin Classics)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (Penguin)
Emile Zola, The Ladies Paradise (Oxford World's Classics)
David Hawkes, Ideology (Routledge, 1996)

Select Bibliography

Rachel Bowlby, Just Looking: Consumer Culture in Dreiser, Gissing and Zola (Methuen, 1985)
Rachel Bowlby, Shopping With Freud (Routledge, 1993)
Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space: 1880-1918 (Harvard UP, 1983)
Deborah L. Parsons, Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women, the City and Modernity (Oxford UP, 2000)
Thomas Richards, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle 1851-1914 (Verso, 1991)
Randall Stevenson, Modernist Fiction (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992)

Aims and objectives

to provide a focused overview of literary responses to the rise of consumer culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries;
to locate these literary responses in their historical and cultural contexts;
to allow students to gain experience in the practical application of critical / cultural theory to the interpretation and analysis of texts.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the text(s) under review in the written assignment, and an awareness of the broader cultural and theoretical issues raised by the module;
demonstrate an ability to write competently about the texts with reference to their cultural and historical background;
produce organised, coherently argued, and critically informed written work.