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IP205 Consumption

Dr Kirsten Harris
Module Leader
Terms 1 - 3
23 weeks
19 workshops
of 2 hours / week
1 field trip
6 hours of research project guidance

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Principal Aims

This core module aims to introduce students to the intellectual interface between the medical humanities, social sciences and humanities by focusing on the topic of Consumption. Using a diverse range of sources, students will critically consider a range of theoretical frameworks, cultural interventions and social practices. Using a transdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning approach, this module will encourage students to generate and interrogate problems relating to three broad areas of study: Consumption as an Illness, Consumption as an Economic and Ecological Concern, and Consumption in Society and Culture.

Principal Learning Outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the biological and social history of tuberculosis, including the cultural impact of the disease;
  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of economic, sociological and cultural theorisations of consumption and consumer studies, and critically assess a range of frameworks and methodologies;
  • Analyse the language of consumption, and representations and interventions in literature and visual culture;
  • Critically consider notions of use, value, waste and decay in relation to consumption;
  • Identify and problematize connections and convergences between the module’s three broad topics of consumption as an illness, consumption as an economic and ecological concern, and consumption in society and culture;
  • Generate problems and well-informed responses to issues relating to the module’s three broad topics;
  • 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, economics, the medical humanities, visual cultures, history, English studies, cultural studies and environmental studies to analyse a range of sources in cultural and historical perspective.

The module is structured around three broad topics relating to the notion of Consumption: Consumption as an Illness, Consumption as an Economic and Ecological Concern, and Consumption in Society and Culture.

Term 1
  1. Defining Consumption

Consumption as an Illness

  1. Biological and Historical Contexts
  2. The Language of Consumption
  3. Consumptive Identities (1): The Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Visual and Literary Imagination
  4. Local Contexts
  5. Consumptive Identities (II): Into the Twenty-First Century

Consumption as an Economic and Ecological Concern

  1. Consumption and Classical Economics
  2. Commodification
  3. The Consumer Society
  4. Cathedrals of Consumption and Hyper-Consumption
Term 2
  1. Consumer Activism
  2. The Consumption of a Finite Planet

Consumption in Society and Culture

  1. Aesthetics of Consumption (I): The House of Mirth
  2. Aesthetics of Consumption (II): American Psycho
  3. Aesthetics of Consumption (III): Pop Art
  4. Field trip (exhibition)
  5. Cultural Consumption (I): World Fairs
  6. Cultural Consumption (II): The Cultural Industry
  7. Cultural Consumption (III): Leisure and Food
  8. Conclusions and group presentations
Term 3
  1. Research project guidance
  2. Research project guidance
  3. Research project guidance
Reading List

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)

Bryder, Linda. Below the Magic Mountain: A Social History of Tuberculosis in Twentieth-Century Britain (Clarendon, 1988)

Bynum, Helen. Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Byrne, Katherine. Tuberculosis and the Victorian Literary Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2011)

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

Gagnier, Regenia. The Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market Society (University of Chicago Press, 2000)

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

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

Mann, Thomas. The Magic Mountain (Knopf, 2005)

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)

Schroeder, Jonathan E (ed.). Conversations on Consumption (Routledge, 2015)

Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor (Penguin, 1983)

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)