The Life of a Shopgirl

Catherine Driscoll

in Modernist Cultural Studies

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780813034249
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038421 | DOI:
The Life of a Shopgirl

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The shopgirl is one of those “types” that Walter Benjamin describes as the only way people can appear in the marketplace. In The Gender of Modernity (1995), Rita Felski discusses a set of types by which modernism has explored the importance of gender to modernity — focusing on the hysteric, the “voracious consumer,” the prostitute, the feminized aesthete, and the sexual pervert. She aims in this text “to establish points of connection between the texts of the past and the feminist politics of the present,” and the shopgirl is a particularly telling figure for such a discussion. This chapter focuses on the shopgirl to explore the modernist invention of the everyday as well as modernist reflection on everyday life, including in new modes of social theory and in the work of artists like Marcel Duchamp and Jean Rhys. Now solidly located in the canon of cultural studies, the concept of the everyday is usually discussed using more recent reference points.

Keywords: Rita Felski; shopgirl; modernism; cultural studies; everyday; social theory; Marcel Duchamp; Jean Rhys; everyday life; gender

Chapter.  9439 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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