The arrival of the experiential consumer: a journey through modernist commercialism and literary modernism

Zizzari, David (2022). The arrival of the experiential consumer: a journey through modernist commercialism and literary modernism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This interdisciplinary academic project investigates the origins of the experiential consumer, an important figure who emerges in the early twentieth century in the metropolises of Western Europe, to model a new kind of modern consumption: experiential consumption. Closely linked to the experiential consumer are the imbrications between the groundbreaking approaches gaining prevalence in both the spheres of commerce and high modernist literature, specifically, the urban marketplace in the former, and the texts of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce in the latter. The study begins with an examination of how the internalization of the commodity form came to shape a consumer-oriented consciousness for the modern subject. The other key element in the development of experiential consumption as an increasingly significant mode of consumption, involves the evolution of late-nineteenth century aestheticism, which further promoted aesthetic engagement in modern individuals. At the outset of the 1900s, an important cultural institution gained sufficient everyday influence within the cityscape to provide a pivotal space for cultivating a new consumerist ethos based on experiential consumption: the department store. Though the connections between art and commerce are analysed in relation to the appearance of a new programme in the marketplace – modernist commercialism – which relied on some literary techniques and ideals, this thesis project also evaluates how the tensions in this relationship are addressed from a literary perspective. Thus, the study explores both Woolf’s and Joyce’s fascination with experiential consumption, including their treatment of it through the depiction of their most famous characters – Clarissa Dalloway and Leopold Bloom – who are crafted as exemplars of the modern subject as an experiential consumer. The investigation also includes how economic and commercial ideas, namely marketplace logic and a consumerist orientation, influenced their work as high literary modernists.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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