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Marianne in the Market

Marianne in the Market: Envisioning Consumer Society in Fin-de-Siècle France

Lisa Tiersten
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Marianne in the Market
    Book Description:

    In the late nineteenth century, controversy over the social ramifications of the emerging consumer marketplace beset the industrialized nations of the West. In France, various commentators expressed concern that rampant commercialization threatened the republican ideal of civic-mindedness as well as the French reputation for good taste. The female bourgeois consumer was a particularly charged figure because she represented consumption run amok. Critics feared that the marketplace compromised her morality and aesthetic discernment, with dire repercussions for domestic life and public order.Marianne in the Markettraces debates about the woman consumer to examine the complex encounter between the market and the republic in nineteenth-century France. It explores how agents of capitalism-advertisers, department store managers, fashion journalists, self-styled taste experts-addressed fears of consumerism through the forging of an aesthetics of the marketplace: a "marketplace modernism." In so doing, they constructed an image of the bourgeois woman as the solution to the problem of unrestrained, individualized, and irrational consumption. Commercial professionals used taste to civilize the market and to produce consumers who would preserve the French aesthetic patrimony. Tasteful consumption legitimized women's presence in the urban public and reconciled their roles as consumers with their domestic and civic responsibilities. A fascinating case study,Marianne in the Marketbuilds on a wide range of sources such as the feminine press, decorating handbooks, exposition reports, advertising materials, novels, and etiquette books. Lisa Tiersten draws on these materials to make the compelling argument that market professionals used the allure of aesthetically informed consumerism to promote new models of the female consumer and the market in keeping with Republican ideals.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92565-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    If Madame Bovary had lived in Paris instead of Yonville, she would have led a profoundly different life. Stifled by bourgeois boredom and bad taste, Emma Bovary imagined herself flourishing in the French capital. “Walking along the boulevards, stopping at every corner,” she would have been aflâneuse, luxuriating in the freedom to observe and admire the spectacle of modern Paris and to be observed and admired herself, like other Parisiennes of taste and sensibility. With her dreams of beautiful possessions and social recognition instantly gratified, moreover, she might never have embarked on ill-fated love affairs or plunged her husband...


    • CHAPTER 1 Marianne in the Department Store: Commercial Paris and the Civic Vision of the Republic
      (pp. 15-54)

      Describing a Parisian department store in the notes for his novel of modern commerce,Au Bonheur des dames,Emile Zola invoked metaphors of military conquest and domination: “Woman [is] queen, in her element. On the days of new exhibitions or big sales, she reigns en masse, headstrong and arrogant, ruling over her salesmen-subjects as if she were in a vanquished country.… It has been said that if the department store were suppressed, there would be a revolution among women.… Women go there to pass the time, just as they used to go to church: it is … a place where...

    • CHAPTER 2 “The Mercantile Spirit of Our Epoch”: The Aesthetic Crisis of the Republic
      (pp. 55-86)

      In an essay on the moral crisis of the modern era, published in the Parisian dailyLe Figaro, the liberal playwright and editor Alfred Capus described the French Republic as an aging, slatternly Marianne: “How the Republic has changed! She has become less seductive … [and] lost her adolescent grace.… Over the years, she has taken on so many different costumes that one hardly recognizes her any more.… Today, her clothes are made of rags and tatters, no longer the costume of the people nor that of a warrior. They are badly matched and incongruous, and she is visibly uncomfortable...


    • CHAPTER 3 Being Bourgeois: The Rise of Aesthetic Individuality
      (pp. 89-120)

      Writing in the popular women’s periodicalLe Salon de la modein 1885, only fifteen years after the establishment of the bourgeois republic, the journalist Blanche de Regnault remarked that artistic cachet had supplanted birth and wealth as the index of social distinction in modern French society. Those who still took pride in their noble origins not only carefully concealed their conceit, she noted, but also took great pains to vaunt their aesthetic sensibility. “Nowadays,” Regnault wrote, “one has but a single worry: to be an artist or to appear to be one.”¹

      How are we to explain what one...

    • CHAPTER 4 Marketplace Modernism: Reinventing the Chic Parisienne
      (pp. 121-149)

      Praising the Parisienne’s aesthetic cultivation in the elite fashion magazineL’Art de la modein the early 1880s, Marie Double described her as equally impassioned by the French Academy and the form of a hat. “At home at a performance of a play by Dumasfilsor a ball thrown by the Princess de Léon,” the Parisienne had a distinctive taste that ranged from the lofty realm of authors, composers, and painters to the mundane sphere of couturiers and hatmakers: in a word, the marketplace.¹ Double’s point was a commonplace in the advice literature and commercial media of the fin...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Chic Interior: Marketplace Modernism in the Bourgeois Home
      (pp. 150-184)

      In his 1896 popular handbook on decorating, Henri de Noussane described a young woman’s apartment in rhapsodic terms. To create this “strangely beautiful interior,” he explained, she had custom-ordered furniture from a carpenter: “Then, with a sure talent and admirable patience, she carved the wood, chiseled the panels, placed Caryatids on the pediments, and fastened garlands everywhere.… She made works of art out of the doors of her apartment. Fresh landscapes covered the fireplaces, flowering branches appeared on the window panes.…”¹ Noussane admitted that the young woman was “an artistic genius,” and that not everyone had the time and the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Consumer Citizenship and the Republicanization of the Market
      (pp. 185-230)

      Expounding on the duties of womanhood inLa Courrier de la modein the early 1890s, the pseudonymous journalist “Grillonne” likened the function of the modernmaîtresse de maisonto that of a politician negotiating the needs of the French citizenry. “A real woman” she wrote, “… knows how to run the great ministry that we call thefoyer domestiquefor the good of everyone and how best to play her complex role as wife, mother, andfemme du monde.” She was to fulfill that role, both serving her family within the private domestic setting and representing them in the...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 231-236)

    From the founding of the first department store at midcentury, representatives and proponents of the modern market claimed that it benefited the individual middle-class consumer. Even the most vehement opponents of the market conceded that substantially reduced prices and a vastly increased range of choice in products, combined with the convenience of shopping for diverse goods at a single site and the elimination of bargaining, had revolutionized and streamlined commerce. These arguments about the gains to the consumer mirrored those made about the entrepreneur, whose freedom from the customs and constraints of traditional retailing allowed for unprecedented profits. From Adam...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 237-286)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-310)
  11. Index
    (pp. 311-321)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 322-322)