Abstract

Abstract:

This article argues that William Beckford's oriental tale Vathek (published 1786) makes use of the trope of oriental despotism to address the experience of early British consumer society. Scholarship has neglected the degree to which eighteenth-century European commentary on oriental despotism, especially in Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, emphasizes the super-abundant consumption of the despot. Beckford's Vathek explores this theme in detail, organizing its narrative around the despot's insatiability. A reading of Beckford's novel suggests that eighteenth-century consumer culture contained both a decadent and a rationalized element. The novel departs, furthermore, from optimistic accounts of the history of consumption by depicting consumer society as driven by pathological compulsion and social isolation.

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 183-199
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-18
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.