Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism
Publication Year: 2013
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.
Published by: University of New Hampshire Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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This study began with a grant from my unh English Department chair, the late Michael DePorte, to purchase books on consumer culture; they opened a whole new field of research to me. I am profoundly grateful for Mike’s recognition of this project’s promise and his faith in my ability to carry it through to the end. I am also grateful for the generous support of my unh colleagues, especially ...
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...sacrament, n. 1. Eccles. a. a visible sign of an inward grace. b. a visible sign instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace.a primitive mentality . . . based on a belief in the omnipotence of thoughts (though what we have in this case is a belief in the In Childe Hassam’s 1893 painting, “Street Scene, Christmas Morning,” a lovely ...
1 | Raising Virtuous Shoppers
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...“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” complains Jo March in Little Women’s famous opening line. Her older sister Meg follows with a sim-ilar lament: “It’s dreadful to be poor!” And the youngest sister Amy, with “an injured sniff,” chimes in, “I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have lots of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all.” Only the third daughter, Beth, re-...
2 | Lily Bart and the Pursuit of Happiness
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Edith Wharton, who noted that she read the “great Louisa” as a child, often as-serted her break from the domestic women’s tradition that Alcott represented.1 However, Wharton’s 1905 bestseller, The House of Mirth,2 nonetheless reveals a hidden affiliation with Little Women, one with its origins in Wharton’s dis-avowed identification with the earlier novel’s characters as well as her preoccu-...
3 | Lily at the Crossroads
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Given Lily’s character, it might be surprising to find her on that Sunday morn-ing at Bellomont fully intending to attend church. She has selected a gray dress of the properly devotional cut and even asked her hostess for a prayer book to bring with her, along with the two Trenor daughters, who have agreed to drag themselves from their slumbers to keep her company. The mystery is solved, ...
4 | Smart Jews and Failed Protestants
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Book 2, like book 1, opens with Lawrence Selden turning his gaze on Lily Bart. Now the setting is the French Riviera, where Lily has traveled under the patron-age of the Dorsets on their expensive steam yacht. While Selden sees that Lily’s beauty is intact, he senses that the wayward impulses that had briefly opened her nature to his influence have been put rigidly “under the control of the state.” ...
5 | Lily in the Valley of the Shadow
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This chapter turns to an analysis of the final scenes of The House of Mirth where we see a growing self-awareness and interiority in Lily — an awareness of her weaknesses as well as her failed aspirations. However, the novel also unspar-ingly portrays Lily’s continuing inability to “live with her thoughts.” As a re-sult of this inability, her self-awareness, rather than prompting a clearer sense ...
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies