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Consuming TraditionsModernity, Modernism, and the Commodified Authentic$
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Elizabeth Outka

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195372694

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372694.001.0001

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“Lustrous behind Glass”

“Lustrous behind Glass”

Woolf, Window Shopping, and Authentic Display

(p.128) 5. “Lustrous behind Glass”
Consuming Traditions

Elizabeth Outka (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter moves from the department stores discussed in the previous chapter to the individual consumer gaze, examining the rapid growth and cultural importance of carefully constructed displays of “authentic” goods. The early writings of Virginia Woolf, including her novel Night and Day, structure the analysis of window shopping and self-fashioning before and after World War I. Both the fictional and the actual displays left behind the crowded, though often lavish, arrangements of the Victorian store window to present less cluttered exhibits with clean lines and single objects. The chapter explores how Selfridges, Woolf, and the new window displays satisfied in different ways some of the contradictory desires of the modern subject: the longing for the noncommercial, the pleasure in distinguishing between high and low culture, and a modern wish to acknowledge and even celebrate the constructed nature of this satisfaction. These very desires became a critical part of the modernist project, as such strategies promised to transcend distinctions between the “authentic” and the mass-produced, between an aesthetic modernism and a commercial modernity.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Night and Day, Selfridges department store, window shopping, store windows, window displays, high and low culture, modernism, modernity

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