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Alberto Blest Gana and the Sensory Appeal of Wealth

Authors
  • Vilches, Patricia1
  • 1 Spanish Department, Lawrence University, Wisconsin , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Open Cultural Studies
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Jun 05, 2021
Volume
5
Issue
1
Pages
81–95
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/culture-2021-0006
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research article
License
Green

Abstract

This essay explores sensory stimuli in La aritmética en el amor [Arithmetic in Love/Economics of Love] (1860) as they relate to the consumer preferences (for clothing, furniture, jewellery) and purchasing practices of nineteenth-century Santiago, Chile. The novel presents detailed descriptions, for example, of fine fabrics, emphasising the sounds that the wearers of such fabric reproduce as they move about. Wealthy or not, people feel the pressure to present themselves in their best garments, but the “best noise” is made by the rich, who transmit the affect of opulence to the less fortunate. Overall, to radiate a sensory appeal, characters frequent the city of Santiago and patronise the finest clothing stores. From our very first encounter with the protagonist Fortunato Esperanzano, he is dressed accordingly, engaging with Santiago and showing in his persona that he shops only for nice clothes and the best cigars. From a Lefebvrian perspective, Fortunato represents how Chile’s modernisation transforms the capital’s “marketplace” as a social space where a new luxury economy flourishes and a traditional, rigid social order is maintained.

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