Asserting that a history of shopping was, until recently, a
history of women, Rachel Bowlby trains her eye on the evolution of
the modern shopper. She uses a compelling blend of history,
literary analysis, and cultural criticism to explore the rise of
department stores and supermarkets of the United States, France,
and Great Britain.
Bowlby recalls the fascinating early days of these institutions.
In the mid-nineteenth century, when department stores first
developed, their fabulous new buildings brought middle-class women
into town, where they could indulge in what was then a new
activity: a day's shopping. The stores offered luxury, flattering
women into believing that they belonged in a beautiful environment.
It is here, Bowlby argues, that the idea of the modern woman's
passion for fashion and shopping took hold.
Developed in the twentieth century, supermarkets took an
opposite tack: they offered functionality, standardization, and
cheapness. However, Bowlby claims, despite their differences, the
two institutions belong together as emblematic of their respective
eras' social developments: the department store with the growth of
cities, the supermarket with the proliferation of suburbs. With
their dazzling lights and displays, both supermarkets and
department stores were thought to produce in females an enhanced or
trance-like state of mind.
For readers who regard shopping as a spectator or participatory
sport, and for those who wish to understand our culture and the
psychology of women, or those who simply enjoy a witty, literate
romp through the aisles, Carried Away is the perfect
Subjects: Sociology, History
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