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CRPLA Seminar on Sustainability and Consumption

Kate Soper, ‘Trans-valuing “Backwardness”: Towards a Post-Growth Aesthetic and Politics of Prosperity’
Rachel Bowlby, ‘“All is looked for at shops”: Cobbett’s Complaints about Modern Consumption’

16 March 2021

5.30 - 7.00 pm

Kate Soper, ‘Trans-valuing “Backwardness”: Towards a Post-Growth Aesthetic and Politics of Prosperity’

With particular reference to Ireland and what James Joyce called Irish ‘belatedness’, this talk reflects on the ‘dialectics of development’; the mutations of the recent boom and recession years; and the implications for any project of sustainable consumption. Drawing on my alternative hedonist position, it calls for a cultural politics to counter modernisation construed as commitment to the growth model of prosperity with its economic and social adaptation to the constraints of the global capitalist market. Thus far, it aspires to an ‘alternative to the world’ associated with traditional romantic antipathy to the modern. But even as it challenges the consumerist aesthetic, it also rejects the puritanism and social conservatism of traditional cultures of resistance to modernity. Its ‘political imaginary’ would endorse a form of modernisation and its representation that disrupts the link between progress and economic expansion.

Prof. Soper has provided us with Derek Mahon's poem, 'The Bronx Seabirds', to read in preparation for her talk.

Rachel Bowlby, ‘“All is looked for at shops”: Cobbett’s Complaints about Modern Consumption’

This short paper looks at some passages from William Cobbett’s polemical Rural Rides. Written in the mid-1820s, Cobbett’s journalistic pieces shout about changes in country people’s ways of living: their aspirational tendencies, their neglect of local sources, their use instead of those pointless places known as shops. The language and underlying assumptions of these complaints are fascinating in themselves, but they also cast light, by their similarities as much as their differences, on arguments in our own time about sustainable living, commodification, and the psychology of consumption.

Attached here is a handout of quotations for Prof. Bowlby's talk.

A Zoom link will be circulated. Please e-mail Eileen John (eileen.john@warwick.ac.uk) if you are not already receiving CRPLA announcements and want to join the seminar.