A Literature Of Consumption

Jan 5 2013 @ 1:35pm

Jacob Leland hypothesizes from the numerous examples of gluttony he finds in famous books from the early 20th century:

This obsession with what people put in their bodies shows us literature and culture doing what became, in the years between the World Wars, their job: to create a better consumer. After all, a nation of consumers needs a nation of salespeople telling it what and how much to buy. Modernism made a more prolific consumer by making sense of and often glorifying the shift from production to consumption. It created a more discriminating one by distinguishing serious art, or "high modernism," from mass culture and mechanized entertainment.

This may be the readiest association that most of us have with literary high modernism: Joyce, Faulkner, Eliot, Dos Passos, et al are good because they’re difficult. We are taught it takes an entire liberal arts education just to learn to appreciate and discuss them—that is, to consume them correctly.