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The Sentiment of Spending

Intimate Relationships and the Consumerist Environment in the Works of Zola, Rachilde, Maupassant, and Huysmans


Alison M. K. Walls

The nineteenth century saw a fundamental change in the practice and psychology of shopping with the appearance of the department store: La Samaritaine in Paris (1869), Macy’s in New York (1858) and Harrods in London (1849) were early representations of Western consumer culture. The Sentiment of Spending examines this shift first on a socio-historic level and then through the literary lens of some of the century’s most vital authors, the exponents of Naturalism – Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, and Jori-Karl Huysmans – as well as the fascinating, if rarely studied, Rachilde. In the works discussed, the characters reveal through their interpersonal, sexual, and sentimental relationships the penetrating effects of a consumerist culture. As both a literary and social analysis, this book also addresses the moral question inherent in a world where shopping and sentiment are so inextricably intertwined. The Sentiment of Spending provides profound insights into some essential texts, and is an engaging read for anyone with an interest in French literature and its reflection of our society.