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    Visual and Literary Representations

    Michelis, Angelica ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8012-1053 (2022) Visual and Literary Representations. In: A Cultural History of Shopping in the Modern Age. A Cultural History of Shopping, 6 . Bloomsbury, pp. 129-152. ISBN 9781350027060

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    Abstract

    This chapter will focus on visual and literary representations of shopping in Western Europe and the United States from the 1920s onwards and the ways in which they can be understood as an archive of and a contribution to the experience of the modern self as demarcated by discourses of consumption, appetite and desire. Shopping will be explored as intrinsic to societies that in the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will become progressively defined by the ways in which they link the experience and expression of identity to participating in discourses of consumption. However, while modern and postmodern capitalist societies, their governments and their economies are heavily dependent on consumerism and inscribing their subjects into a culture of ‘spend, spend, spend’, shopping will also be explored as a form of cultural production that can lead to transformation and resistance. Class, gender, sexuality and race will be scrutinized as defined by, and simultaneously contributing to, an understanding of shopping as a cultural site where modern subjectivities are negotiated and challenged. Starting with literary and artistic representations of consumer culture in the 1920s and the ways in which they reacted to and shaped the notion of the modern/modernist city, the chapter will move on to the inter-war period and the rise of film as an increasingly relevant visual expression and representation of shopping as a cultural site and activity. In the war and postwar era rationing and the philosophy of ‘Make do and mend’ presented new moral implications by linking the notion of good citizenship to a celebration and stern acceptance of austerity. As a direct result, the visual language of commercial advertisements merged with the art of the political propaganda poster and created a new style of communication between government and their subjects. In the following decades of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, shopping and consumerism, at times enthusiastically embraced as an expression of identity, and at others fiercely condemned as its enslavement, would continue to impact on and be defined by styles and themes in literature, visual art, the cinema and television and by doing so become inextricably linked to the experience and variations of modern and postmodern life.

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