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Lèche-vitrines: Human Identity and the Mannequin in 'Au Bonheur des Dames'

Citation: Foster, Kate (2022) Lèche-vitrines: Human Identity and the Mannequin in 'Au Bonheur des Dames'. Dix-Neuf .


Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

The department store mannequin is often read as representative of commodity or sexual fetishism and, as a result, of woman objectified. This article posits that in Émile Zola’s 'Au Bonheur des Dames' (1883), the mannequin can also highlight such objectification to the woman in the text. Through close readings of the mannequins in 'Au Bonheur des Dames', and their relationships with both shoppers and workers in the store, this article seeks to analyse the combination of estrangement and excitement which characterizes the experience of living under modernity. While some bodies in the text are literally broken, elsewhere a wider sense of fracture or fragmentation is at work, as human identity itself seems to be breaking up. The Zolian mannequin foregrounds this theme of fragmentation, as it is never depicted whole: instead, the always already fragmented mannequin reflects the fragmented (female) shopper, and the dismembered (male) shop employee, who works as if suffering from automatism. This article asks whether the inherent impersonality of the headless Zolian mannequin is a source of empowerment which allows the shopper to recognize and thus reject objectification of the self, or simply a disquieting reminder of the limits of one’s own powerlessness.

Creators: Foster, Kate (0000-0001-9347-1036) and
Official URL:
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Au Bonheur des Dames, mannequin, identity, body, Zola-Zolian, modernity
Divisions: Institute of Modern Languages Research
  • 29 May 2022 (accepted)
  • 17 June 2022 (published)
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