Consumer Chronicles

Cultures of Consumption in Modern French Literature

David H. Walker

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ISBN: 9781846314872

Publication: March 31, 2011

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 19

In the USA? Buy the Hardback US edition
At a time when the world is contemplating the depletion of non-renewable natural resources, the consumer society is increasingly being called into question. This is nowhere more acutely evident than in France, where since its beginnings in the nineteenth century, the consumer revolution, extending market forces into every area of social and private life, has been perceived as a challenge to core elements in French culture, such as traditional artisan crafts and small businesses serving local communities. Cultural historians and sociologists have charted the increasing commercialisation of everyday life over the twentieth century, but few have paid systematic attention to the crucial testimony provided by the authors of narrative fiction. Consumer Chronicles rectifies this omission by means of close readings of a series of novels, selected for their authentic portrayal of consumer behaviour, and analysed in relation to their social, cultural and historical contexts. Walker's study, offering an imaginative interdisciplinary panorama covering the impact of affluence on French shoppers, shopkeepers and society, provides telling new insights into the history and characteristics of the consumer mentality.

David H. Walker is Professor of French at the University of Sheffield and was formerly President of the Society for French Studies and President of the Association of University Professors of French. His books include 'Outrage and Insight: Modern French Writers and the ‘fait divers’'. Oxford, Berg French Studies, 1995 and a number of critical editions of the work of André Gide.

Acknowledgements Introduction I. WAITING FOR THE CONSUMER SOCIETY 1. Earning, Yearning and Making Do: Huysmans, 'Les Soeurs Vatard' 2. 'Flaneurs and Shoppers: Huysmans, 'En menage' 3. From Shopping to Schopenhauer: Huysmans, ' A vau- l'eau' II. ECONOMIES OF CONSUMPTION (1) 4. Transactions and Value: Gide, 'L'Immoraliste' III. SMALL SHOPS 5. 'La lente Agonie du petit commerce? Balzac, 'Grandeur et decadence de Cesar Birotteau' and Zola, 'Au bonheur des dames' 6. 'Eleve dans le commerce: Celine, 'Mort a credit' 7. The Emprium Strikes Back: Dutourd, 'Au Bon Beurre' IV. BIG STORES 8. The Big Sell 9. The 'grand magasin': Zola, 'Au bonheur des dames (2)' 10.'Les Venus des comptoirs' : Feminism and Shopping in the 1920's 11. Total Retail: Figures of the Dystopian Superstore V. ECONOMIES OF COMSUMPTION (2) 12. Speculations on Value VI. REFLECTIONS ON THE CONSUMER SOCIETY 13. Post-wr visions of Paradise: The Dawning of the Consumer Society 14. Managing the Consumers (1): Motivational Analysts 15. Managing the Consumers (2) Advertisers 16. The Consumers Managing 1: Making Do by Instalments 17. The Consumers Managing 2: Making Do and Producing Conclusion: A Good Buy? Bibliography Index

Walker’s clear exposition of the progression of his argument at every stage is helpful, if occasionally repetitive. His work is itself a treasure trove of references to literary and historical texts that discuss the evolution and importance of shopping in the modern period. Readers of modern French literature with an eye for consumer economics will undoubtedly get their money’s worth from this volume.
Beth Gerwin   Modern Language Review, Vol. 107, Part 4
University of Lethbridge

Walker’s prose remains clear, readable, even playful. The greatest strength of this book lies in the author’s ability to synthesize vast amounts of information from primary and secondary works in order to tell a coherent story. Works of fiction unfold in time and in tandem with a thoroughly documented history of consumer culture in modern France.
  H-France Review Vol. 12, No. 18

Consumer Chronicles offers scholars and undergraduates alike fresh purchase not only on the development of consumer culture in modern France, and on literary and theoretical engagements with it, but also on their own practices of critical consumption.
  French Studies, vol 66, no 1

It is a work of impeccable scholarship, and possesses the virtues of ample illustration, detailed demonstration, and the relentless, exhaustive pursuit of a single broad topic.
David Bellos  

Format: Hardback

Size: 239 × 163 mm

288 Pages

ISBN: 9781846314872

Publication: March 31, 2011

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 19

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