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"Living is later. This is your rented death."

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The theme of luxury in American culture through a Marxist analysis of literature and advertising

The theme of luxury in American culture through a Marxist analysis of literature and advertising

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  • 1. “ Living is Later. This is Your Rented Death”: The Theme of Luxury in American Culture through a Marxist Analysis of Literature and Advertising
  • 2. Intended Analysis
    • The theme of luxury in American culture visible in contemporary literature and advertising
    • Marge Piercy’s poem “The Morning Half-Life Blues” and Allure’s advertisement for a new Louis Vuitton women’s watch “Tambour Lovely Perle”
    • Marxism defined by author Donald Hall
  • 3. Defining Marxism
    • Marxism focuses…
    • “ not only on the bare facts and figures related to an individual’s economic status but also on the wide variety of social meanings attributed to that status and to the goods and services that an individual purchases or aspires to purchase” and “explores the reasons behind such gross economic disparities, their changing historical nature, and in the many ways in which class systems perpetuate themselves through institutions, laws, and other social structures.”
    • Hall, Literary and Cultural Theory
  • 4. Four Contexts
    • The historical change from emphasis on inner beauty to outer beauty
    • The desperate social climbing of the ladder of luxury toward an unattainable top rung
    • Advertising’s spoken goal, to guide in luxury, versus its true goal, to socially distract
    • The institutional interpellation of advertising
  • 5.
    • MARGE PIERCY, THE MORNING HALF-LIFE BLUES
    Girls buck the wind in the grooves toward work in fuzzy coats promised to be warm as fur. The shop windows snicker flashing them hurrying over dresses they cannot afford: you are not pretty enough, not pretty enough. Blown with yesterday’s papers through the boiled coffee morning we dream of the stop on the subway without a name, the door in the heart of the grove of skyscrapers, that garden where we nestle to the teats of a furry world, lie in mounds of peony eating grapes, and need barter ourselves for nothing. not by the hour, not by the pound, not by the skinful, that party to which no one will give or sell us the key though we have all thought briefly we found it drunk or in bed.
  • 6.
    • Black girls with thin legs and high necks stalking like herons,
    • plump girls with blue legs and green eyelids and
    • strawberry breasts,
    • swept off to be frozen in fluorescent cubes,
    • the vacuum of your jobs sucks your brains dry
    • and fills you with the ooze of melted comics.
    • Living is later. This is your rented death.
    • You grasp at hard commodities and vague lusts
    • to make up, to pay for each day
    • which opens like a can and is empty, and then another,
    • afternoons like dinosaur eggs stuffed with glue.
    • Girls of the dirty morning, ticketed and spent,
    • you will be less at forty than at twenty.
    • Your living is a waste product of somebody’s mill.
    • I would fix you like buds to a city where people work
    • to make and do things necessary and good,
    • where work is real as bread and babies and trees in parks
    • where we would all blossom slowly and ripen to sound fruit.
  • 7. Allure November 2005
  • 8. Beauty’s Historical Evolution
    • “ In the effort to look like the attractive women they saw in movies and magazines, American women in the 1920s put aside long-established objections to face makeup and began to purchase and use a wide range of cosmetics” Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project
    • Acne treatment as luxury item
    • Dermatology today
  • 9. Beauty’s Evolution in Literature and Advertising
    • Piercy’s poem: lines 3-5
    • The shop windows snicker
    • flashing them hurrying over dresses they cannot afford:
    • you are not pretty enough, not pretty enough
    • The “girls” understand the process
    • Setting the subject
  • 10.
    • Louis Vuitton’s ad
    • Glistening, Sparkling
    • The color white
  • 11. A Marxist Understanding
    • Perpetually kept wanting more
    • “ An ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices.”
    • Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
    • Advertising as American ideology
  • 12. Climbing the Ladder of Luxury
    • “ We were not suddenly transformed from customers to consumers by wily manufacturers eager to upload a surplus of crappy products. We have created a surfeit of things because we enjoy the process of getting and spending. The consumption ethic may have started in the 1900s, but the desire is ancient.” James B. Twitchell, Adcult USA
    • Growing desire to pursue luxury producing desperate climbing of the ladder of luxury to unattainable top rung
    • “… work, work, work, to save for a rainy day but then spend, spend, spend as if there is no tomorrow.” Twitchell, Adcult USA
  • 13. Luxury’s Ladder in Literature and Advertising
    • Piercy’s poem: lines 22-26
    • Living is later. This is your rented death.
    • You grasp at hard commodities and vague lusts
    • to make up, to pay for each day
    • which opens like a can and is empty, and then another,
    • afternoons like dinosaur eggs stuffed with glue
    • Consumption of “things”
    • Sacrificing personal lives for product lives
  • 14.
    • Louis Vuitton’s ad
    • Beginner’s step to luxury
    • Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
  • 15. A Marxist Understanding
    • Moving up the luxury ladder in hopes to advancing on an even more prestigious ladder: social class
    • Class system perpetuated by institutions
    • “… the aristocracy in the past and the bourgeoisie of today can afford so many luxuries because the proletariat is kept in poverty…”
    • Hall
  • 16. Guidance in Luxury or Social Distraction?: Advertising’s Mission
    • “ Manufacturing both things and their meanings is what modern industrial culture is all about. In a sense Condé Nast and LVMH are really just different sides of the same culture. I call it adcult, and it is so much the culture that surrounds us that, like fish in water, we hardly know it’s there”
    • Twitchell, Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury
    • Added value
    • “ We are not too materialistic. We are not materialistic enough. If we craved products and knew what they meant, there would be no need to add meaning through advertising”
    • Twitchell, Adcult USA
  • 17. Advertising’s Mission
    • Piercy’s poem: lines27-29
    • Girls of the dirty morning, ticketed and spent,
    • you will be less at forty than at twenty.
    • Your living is a waste product of somebody’s mill.
    • “ less” regardless of the diligent ladder climbing
    • Purchasing not choice, but only option
  • 18.
    • Louis Vuitton’s ad
    • Connotations of pearls
    • Pearls making come-back in Advertising Age
    • Copycatting between brands
  • 19. A Marxist Understanding
    • Stalling lives with consumption
    • “ It has a political mission – to distract us from the breakdown of our civic cultures and focus attention on private expenditures. We revel in our personal luxuries as our society disintegrates into chaos”
    • Asa Berger, Ads, Fads, & Consumer Culture
    • What are we diverted from?
  • 20. Institutional Interpellation of Advertising
    • “ The average American is exposed to at least three thousand ads every day and will spend three years of his or her life watching television commercials…Of course, we don’t pay direct attention to very many of these ads, but we are powerfully influenced, mostly on an unconscious level, by the experience of being immersed in an advertising culture, a market-driven culture, in which all our institutions, from political to religious to educational, are increasingly for sale to the highest bidder.”
    • Jean Kilbourne, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
  • 21. An Inescapable Environment in Literature and Advertising
    • Piercy’s poem: lines 16-21
    • Black girls with thin legs and high necks stalking like herons,
    • plump girls with blue legs and green eyelids and
    • strawberry breasts,
    • swept off to be frozen in fluorescent cubes,
    • the vacuum of your jobs sucks your brains dry
    • and fills you with the ooze of melted comics
    • Allusion to the modeling world
    • Advertising hails us
  • 22.
    • Louis Vuitton’s ad
    • Consumption is natural
    • Jewelry box
    • Cannot escape being interpellated
  • 23. A Marxist Understanding
    • Theorist Antonio Gramsci’s term “Hegemony”
    • “ I shall then suggest that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing , and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey, you over there!’”
    • Althusser
    • Interpellation: a higher system we cannot escape
  • 24. Closing
    • Advertising: most prominent American institution
    • American women relying on an institution we believe to be original, and sadly, natural
    • Not just telling what is and is not valuable, but distracting as American deteriorates into a world of inescapable consumer chaos
    • Advertisement seeks to sell luxury, Piercy questions goal of the consumption
    • Piercy’s poem is relevant and vital in understanding effects of advertising
  • 25. Closing continued
    • Hope for the future
    • I would fix you like buds to a city where people work
    • to make and do things necessary and good,
    • where work is real as bread and babies and trees in parks
    • where we would all blossom slowly and ripen to sound fruit.
    • Desire to return to natural lifestyle, where “things” are no longer necessary