The spectacular development of early consumer society in Britain, France and the United States had a profound impact on constructions of femininity and masculinity, and commercial and cultural values in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on novels by Theodore Dreiser, George Gissing and Emile Zola, Just Looking, first published in 1985, addresses itself to a central paradox of the period: the perceived antithesis of the terms "commerce" and "culture" which emerged at a time which saw the actual drawing together of commercial and cultural practices.
Drawing on structural, psychoanalytic and Marxist-feminist theory, Rachel Bowlby retrieves a relatively neglected literary area for contemporary political and theoretical concerns, re-establishing the naturalist novel as a rich source for feminists, literary theorists and cultural historians.
'Well researched, excellently written, highly intelligent and of central relevance to current literary-theoretical preoccupations.’ – Terry Eagleton
‘Written at that frontier or cross-roads where literary study and sociological or political study are being brought together, this is an important book, one remarkable for its penetration and economy.’ – J. Hillis Miller
1. Introduction 2. Commerce and Femininity 3. Making up Women: Gissing’s Eve’s Ransom 4. Starring: Dreiser’s Sister Carrie 5. "Traffic in Her Desires": Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames 6. Culture and the Book Business 7. Making it: Gissing’s New Grub Street 8. The Artist as Adman: Dreiser’s The "Genius" 9. Working: Zola’s L’Oeuvre