Naturalism and Commodity Culture

Mary E. Papke

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195368932
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Naturalism and Commodity Culture

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This article discusses the relationship between commodity culture and American literary naturalism. It introduces the terms of classical Marxism to indicate the importance of determinist philosophies such as those found in Capital and Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class to numerous early and even more recent readings of naturalism and commodity culture. Excavation of the relationship between naturalism and commodity culture paradoxically frees the naturalist label from the moment of its determination and brings naturalism out of the historical record of the late nineteenth century and into our own time. Marx argued that as long as commodity fetishism obtained, then the mass of men—and women—would lead overdetermined lives of alienation and suffering. Our susceptibility to the allure of commodity culture deepens our vulnerability to the matrix of social forces that we neither understand nor control, the matrix of forces thoroughly documented in naturalism.

Keywords: commodity culture; American literary naturalism; Marxism; Thorstein Veblen

Article.  8017 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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