Join us for a book talk with Sharon Marcus, author of The Drama of Celebrity. Professor Jack Hamilton will moderate the discussion. This event will be free and open to the public.
Why do so many people care so much about celebrities? Who decides who gets to be a star? What are the privileges and pleasures of fandom? Do celebrities ever deserve the outsized attention they receive?
In this fascinating and deeply researched book, Sharon Marcus challenges everything you thought you knew about our obsession with fame. Icons are not merely famous for being famous; the media alone cannot make or break stars; fans are not simply passive dupes. Instead, journalists, the public, and celebrities themselves all compete, passionately and expertly, to shape the stories we tell about celebrities and fans. The result: a high-stakes drama as endless as it is unpredictable.
Drawing on scrapbooks, personal diaries, and vintage fan mail, Marcus traces celebrity culture back to its nineteenth-century roots, when people the world over found themselves captivated by celebrity chefs, bad-boy poets, and actors such as the “divine” Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), as famous in her day as the Beatles in theirs. Known in her youth for sleeping in a coffin, hailed in maturity as a woman of genius, Bernhardt became a global superstar thanks to savvy engagement with her era’s most innovative media and technologies: the popular press, commercial photography, and speedy new forms of travel.
Whether you love celebrity culture or hate it, The Drama of Celebrity will change how you think about one of the most important phenomena of modern times.
Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a founding editor of Public Books and the author of the award-winning Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (Princeton) and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London. Follow her on Twitter at @MarcusSharon.
Jack Hamilton is assistant professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia and the author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2016). He is also the pop critic for Slate magazine, where he frequently writes about music, film, television, sports, and other areas of culture. His writing has appeared in print and online in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR, ESPN, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other publications. He is currently writing a book about music and technology since the 1960s.
Sharon Marcus photo credit: Nicoletta Barolini