Are the concepts of a “consumer” and of a “consumer society” modern ideas? Is greed good, as Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street claimed, or is it a destructive sin?
A team of students led by Dr. Astrid Giugni (Duke, English and ISS) and Dr. Jessica Hines (Brimingham-Southern College, English) will address the question of how to trace concepts that slowly developed alongside changing economic and social realities.
We will track a set of related terms (such as consumer, greed, speculation, profit) in order to begin assessing how the ethical, political, and economic language of goods-consumption changed around the Protestant Reformation and the rise of the market economy. Using large databases-- EEBO (Proquest), ECCO (Gale), HathiTrust, and TEAMS (University of Rochester)—that contain scans and machine-readable Medieval and Early Modern texts, the group will track and analyze pamphlets, sermons, satires, and images to understand how the ethical discourse of consumerism changed over time.
Project Manager: Chris Huebner