In this Book

Sacramental Shopping
summary
Written a generation apart and rarely treated together by scholars, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868) and Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (1905) share a deep concern with materialism, moral development, and self-construction. The heroines in both grapple with conspicuous consumption, an aspect of modernity that challenges older beliefs about ethical behavior and core identity.

Placing both novels at the historical intersection of modern consumer culture and older religious discourses on materialism and identity, Sarah Way Sherman analyzes how Alcott and Wharton rework traditional Protestant discourses to interpret their heroines' struggle with modern consumerism. Her conclusion reveals how Little Women's optimism, still buoyed by otherworldly justice, providential interventions, and the notion of essential identity, ultimately gives way to the much darker vision of modern materialistic culture in The House of Mirth.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. pp. 1-1
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page
  2. pp. 2-9
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. 10-11
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xi-xvi
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-16
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  1. 1. Raising Virtuous Shoppers
  2. pp. 17-72
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  1. 2. Lily Bart and the Pursuit of Happiness
  2. pp. 73-118
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  1. 3. Lily at the Crossroads
  2. pp. 119-168
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  1. 4. Smart Jews and Failed Protestants
  2. pp. 169-216
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  1. 5. Lily in the Valley of the Shadow
  2. pp. 217-270
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 271-302
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 303-316
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