Consuming Subjects: Women, Shopping, and Business in the Eighteenth Century
Consuming Subjects is an insightful exploration of the origin of the modern idea of women as shoppers. Kowaleski-Wallace considers the origins of current ideas about women and consumerism to call into question the "natural" link between women and the commodities they buy.
While previous scholars have posited the nineteenth-century department store and arcade as the crucial place for understanding the emergence of the female consumer, Kowaleski-Wallace argues that the eighteenth century yields a keener understanding by allowing us to view the foundations of contemporary cultural practices.
Drawing on feminist criticism, cultural studies, and new historical ideas, she surveys eighteenth-century literary texts, material objects -such as china- and cultural events to illuminate the ways in which women are both controlled and empowered through images of consumption. Kowaleski-Wallace links the rise of shopping to the appearance of modern pronography: like pornography, shopping embodies a cultural fantasy, claiming to locate and control female "pleasure."
This elegant study is an important contribution to eighteenth-century studies and will appeal to a broader audience of readers interested in feminist and cultural issues.