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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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The Vanishing Act of Commercialism

The Vanishing Act of Commercialism

Selfridges, Modernity, and the Purified Marketplace

Chapter:
(p.99) 4. The Vanishing Act of Commercialism
Source:
Consuming Traditions
Author(s):

Elizabeth Outka (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372694.003.0004

This chapter argues that modernity in Britain was shaped in part by an explosion of department store efforts to sell authenticity through advertising and interior design. The chapter focuses on the revolutionary changes in marketing inaugurated by Selfridges department store when it opened in 1909. The store offered an unprecedented setting for authentic performance and provided its customers a complete education in creating and maintaining different kinds of authentic goods and spaces. In its advertisements, displays, and interior and exterior design, Selfridges worked to redefine shopping by systematically erasing distinctions between commerce and areas most Londoners would have assumed were separate from commercial concerns. The chapter is bookended by new readings of works by Henry James (“The Great Good Place”) and H. G. Wells (Tono-Bungay), exploring how these authors exemplify two central critical responses to commercial strategies that seek to market a noncommercial aura.

Keywords:   Selfridges department store, Henry James, The Great Good Place, H. G. Wells, Tono-Bungay

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