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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.61, No.2, 309 ~ 334, 2015
Consuming Desire: Sylvia Plath`s The Bell Jar and 1950s American Consumer Culture
박주영 Joo Young Park
This paper aims to explore how Sylvia Plath``s The Bell Jar analyzes American consumer culture of the 1950s. Plath entirely depends on the diverse descriptions of the consumption in order to portray the bell jar of confining 1950s patriarchal culture and society. Plath``s literary work prompts new ways of thinking about American mass media-magazines, newspapers, and advertisements, etc. in consumerism. She provides an extraordinary instance of the inseparability of the consumption and subjectivity in the age of Cold War. From the beginning of the novel, The Bell Jar represents Plath``s heroine, Esther Greenwood``s paralysis when faced with the constellation of the consuming desire in the consumer society. Throughout The Bell Jar, Esther shows a conflicted stance toward the consumer culture in capitalistic society; she tries to speak as "a subject against the dehumanizing commodity culture," while at the same time, "improving her ``feminine`` allure as a valuable object within this same culture." In other words, Esther seems to be fascinated by the commodities of the beauty and fashion industry; however, simultaneously, she protests against the feminine values promoted by consumer culture. Plath casts Esther``s rebellion against 1950s codes of femininity in Cold War perspectives; Esther signifies to be transgressing ideals of femininity. Furthermore, Plath creates the direct, immediate language and surreal images advertised in magazines, which breaks the rigid boundary between high masculine art and low feminine popular culture.
Key Words
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, consumer culture, desire, bulimia,영미문학, 문화연구, 비교문학, 비평이론, English and American Literature, cultural studies, comparative literature, critical theory
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