Consumption: Pleasures of the Text, Materiality, and Cultural Practices

full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

The French Graduate Student Association of Columbia University is
pleased to announce a new issue of its graduate student journal on the subject of:

Consumption: Pleasures of the Text, Materiality, and Cultural Practices

In Book Six of The Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau highlights the parallels between consuming books and food: "(...) reading while I eat has always been one of my little treats, in which I indulge when I have no one to talk to. It makes up for the missing company. I devour, by turns, a page and then a mouthful: it is as though my book were dining with me." The eating and drinking of which Rousseau speaks is but one aspect of consumption: to consume can signify nourishment, pleasure and equality on the one hand and deterioration, excess and annihilation on the other. The plural, even contradictory nature of consumption is manifested in the polemical stances that artists, writers, scholars and courts of law have adopted in regards to consumption in literature. From Rousseau's fantasy of simultaneously nourishing the body and mind, to the attempts of the French State to protect its citizens from the dangers it perceived as inherent in the act of reading books such as Madame Bovary, literature, as a consumable object, has alternately been seen as vital and affirming, and as potentially harmful.

In this conference we will reflect on relationships between
consumption and culture. What are the sites, modes and practices of consumption? How are these sites at once represented in and shaped by literature? Does literature itself fall within the field of commodity culture, or rather does it act as an independent guarantor of cultural authenticity? What makes literature such a fraught object of consumption, subject to such legal restrictions as copyright and censorship? What is the relationship between the consumer, the producer and the product consumed, or rather between the reader, the writer and the text? How do new media and technology influence the production and consumption of cultural forms?

We welcome articles of 15-25 pages in French or English addressing this topic within any period of French and Francophone literary history. Perspectives from other disciplinary fields and interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. Please submit your paper with title and contact information (name, affiliation, email address) by March 15, 2010 to This issue is being prepared in conjuction with this year's FGSA graduate student conference (to be held Friday, March 5, 2010), about which more information can be found here:

Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

Literary Consumption
- The reader as a consumer
- Representations of food, sex and money
- Cinematic and visual representations of consumption

Societal Consumption
- Colonization and exploitation
- Consumption and gender
- Consumer identity

Models of Consumption
- Political conceptualizations: capitalism, Marxism, globalization
- Anti-consumption and the avant-garde
- Consumption and Twentieth Century French Theory

Regulating Consumption
- Censorship, legal & regulatory structures
- Exchange and barter
- Social mores of consumption

Transformations in Consumption
- Democratization of literature
- Impact of new media, technology