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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses how consumer culture affects the depiction and meaning of the natural world in the work of American realist writers. These writers illuminate the relationship between natural environments and the social expectations of consumer culture and reveal how such expectations transform natural space into what Henri Lefebvre terms “social space” implicated in the processes and power dynamics of production and consumption. The representation of nature as social space in realist works demonstrates the range of consequences such space holds for characters. Such space can both empower and oppress individuals, and rejecting or embracing it can deepen moral resolve, prompt a crisis of self, or result in one’s death. Characters’ attempts to escape social space and consumer culture also provide readers with new strategies for coping with their effects.

Keywords: social space, nature, consumer culture, production, consumption, environment

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