In this book, one of the most accomplished and thoughtful cultural commentators of the day, considers the contradictory nature of cultural relations. Elizabeth Wilson explores these themes through an examination of fashion, feminism, consumer culture, representation and postmodernism. Debates within feminism on the nature and effects of pornography are used to illustrate a particular kind of cultural contradiction. Wilson recognizes that postmodernism permitted the reappropriation of subjects that were not previously considered worthy of attention, or opposed to the idea of emancipation, chief among these was fashion. She shows that the association of an interest in this culturally significant subject with a revisionist project raises doubt

The Sphinx in the City Reconsidered

The Sphinx in the city reconsidered

Honoré de Balzac's Illusions perdues is the tale of a youthful poet and aspiring genius, Lucien de Rubempré, who travels from the provinces to Paris thirsting simultaneously for artistic recognition and social success. Initially driven to despair by a hopelessly unfashionable provincial appearance, he is prepared to run up debts, to lie, cheat, betray and fall fatally under the influence of the demonic Vautrin, homosexual, criminal and double agent, in order to make his mark upon the urban stage. Such is the potency of the spell cast by ‘beauty, success and the city’.

In Balzac's world, a fashionable appearance was an essential component in the achievement of success. Although the origins of the western fashion cycle ...

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