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IP205 Consumption

Dr Kirsten Harris
Dr Kirsten Harris
Module Leader
Terms 1 - 3
23 weeks
20 workshops
of 2 hours / week
6 hours of research project guidance
Not available to students outside the School for Cross-Faculty Studies

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Principal Aims

This module complements its sister Year Two core module in Sustainability with each exploring a major organising concept of contemporary society from different intellectual perspectives. Where Sustainability draws on contemporary ecological, economic and regulatory challenges and the development of effective evidence-based policy, Consumption instead primarily focuses on cultural interventions and sociological and historical theoretical frameworks. The module critically examines the role that consumption plays in contemporary society, analysing different theorisations of processes of consumption and cultural works which engage with issues of consumption. Using a transdisciplinary Problem-Based learning approach, this module will encourage students to interrogate problems at the intersection of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of historical, sociological and cultural theorisations of consumption, and critically assess a range of frameworks and methodologies;
  • Analyse the language of consumption, and representations and interventions in literature, visual culture and music;
  • Critically consider notions of use, value, waste and decay in relation to consumption;
  • Explore problems and generate well-informed responses to a wide range of issues relating to consumption;
  • Demonstrate advanced cognitive skills such as critical analysis, source-text analysis, qualitative research methods, and oral and written communication skills;
  • Demonstrate meta-cognitive skills such as: planning how to approach a learning task and identifying the appropriate strategies to solve a problem;
  • Demonstrate the ability to use methodologies from sociology, visual cultures, history, English studies, and cultural studies to analyse a range of sources in cultural and historical perspective.

Example of syllabus (guideline only) (2018/19)

Term 1
  1. Defining Consumption
  2. Historical Contexts
  3. Consumption in the Nineteenth-Century
  4. Conspicuous Consumption
  5. Commodification
  6. Consumer Activism
  7. The House of Mirth
  8. The Self in Consumer Society
  9. Landscapes of Consumption
  10. Presentations
Term 2
  1. The Culture Industry
  2. Pop Art
  3. American Psycho
  4. Eating the Other
  5. Grime Music
  6. Inconspicuous Consumption
  7. Eating Out
  8. Anticonsumerism
  9. Sustainable Consumption
  10. Review
Term 3
  1. Research project guidance
  2. Research project guidance
  3. Research project guidance

Assessment (2018/19)

Illustrative Reading List (2018/19)

Adorno, Theodor W., and Max Horkheimer. Trans. John Cumming. Dialectic of Enlightenment (Verso, 1997)

Baudrillard, Jean. Trans. Chris Turner. The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures (Sage, 1998)

Cook, Daniel Thomas, and J. Michael Ryan, The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)

De Certeau, Michel. Trans. Steven Rendall. The Practice of Everyday Life (University of California Press, 1984)

Ellis, Brett Easton. American Psycho (Random House, 1991)

Pettinger, Lynne. Work, Consumption and Capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Pretty, Jules. “The Consumption of a Finite Planet: Well-Being, Convergence, Divergence and the Nascent Green Economy.” Environmental and Resource Economics, 55:4 (August 2013): 475-499

Reisch, Lucia A., and John Thøgersen. Handbook of Research on Sustainable Consumption (Edward Elgar, 2015)

Ritzer, George. Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Continuity and Change in the Cathedrals of Consumption (Sage, 2010)

Stillerman, Joel. The Sociology of Consumption (Polity Press, 2015)

Thyroff, Anastasia E., Jeff B. Murray and Russell W. Belk (eds). Consumer Culture Theory (Emerald, 2015)

Trentmann, Frank. Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers (Allen Lane, 2016)

Trentmann, Frank (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Warde, Alan. Consumption: A Sociological Analysis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library, 2001)

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth (Oxford University Press, 2008)