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Reinventing the self : the construction and consumption of identity within transatlantic modernism


This dissertation examines four texts drawn from the realist and modernist periods, contemporaneous in many respects with the crucial shifts generally recognized as constitutive of consumer culture. It explores some of the dominant literary figurations of these shifts, and how, even as many authors derided this new consumer-oriented urban landscape and what was frequently characterized as its manipulative use of idealized images in marketing and advertising, literary production in this era borrowed in a variety of ways from this new spectacular cultural logic in its own creations. More specifically, these chapters explore how conceptualizations of race, gender and class were influenced by new forms of mass production and advertising that coded its products according to a similarly stratified logic. In so doing they focus particularly on issues of specularity in the literature, advertising and popular media of the day, clarifying the sociological landscape of literary that modernism represented a crucial pivot point between high capitalism and its forms of identity based on one's relationship to the system of production, to our present era in which identity is understood to be something grounded more in one's patterns of consumption, and their relationship to our increasingly image-based culture and its investment in "virtual community," as recent phenomena such as You Tube and social networking sites like Facebook and Second Life demonstrate

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