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The Drama of Celebrity

Sharon Marcus



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Princeton University Pres
21 June 2019
Film, TV & Radio; Social & cultural history; Cultural studies; Popular culture; Media studies; Gender studies, gender groups
A bold new account of how celebrity works 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.
By:   Sharon Marcus
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 155mm, 
ISBN:   9780691177595
ISBN 10:   0691177597
Pages:   328
Publication Date:   21 June 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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. Twitter @MarcusSharon

Reviews for The Drama of Celebrity

The book will hold readers' interest and change their understanding of the triangular interaction involving celebrities, media producers and the public. ---Richard Weigel, Bowling Green Daily News [An] inventive, stimulating book. . . . [Sharon] Marcus is a brilliant theorist and analyst of theater history. ---Elaine Showalter, New York Times [An] excellent new book . . . Marcus [has] performed a great service by illuminating the extraordinary gift possessed by [Sarah Bernhardt]. ---Joseph Roach, Los Angeles Review of Books [An] insightful and engaging examination of celebrity culture . . . Marcus augments her analysis by drawing on types of sources that are rarely used, such as scrapbooks, letters and life writing produced by fans of celebrities. The inclusion of normally neglected voices adds richness and depth to this work, ensuring it is more comprehensive than most earlier studies of this intriguing subject. ---Eleanor Fitzsimons, Literary Review [S]parky, feisty and compelling . . . . Sharon Marcus's book is tour de force and the author a total star. ---Jonathan Margolis, Jewish Chronicle One of the most widely researched and acutely conceptualized books that I have had the pleasure to read in recent years. ---Nicholas White, Modern Language Review [In The Drama of Celebrity], Marcus challenges everything that has been thought about the 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 told about celebrities and fans. The result: A high-stakes drama as endless as it is unpredictable. * Society's Books of Note * I love the book. ---Radhika Jones, The Drama of Celebrity is premised on a fundamental continuity between Bernhardt's era and our own, and Marcus is surely right to contend that the star did much to invent what we now recognize as celebrity culture. ---Ruth Bernard Yeazell, New York Review of Books Marcus's great achievement here is that she leads us on a journey of understanding celebrity and stardom with a richer history than we are often want to take. ---D. Gilson, Lambda Literary The Drama of Celebrity by Sharon Marcus is a hybrid of biography and sociological treatise on one of the most important phenomena of modern times . . . why we are attracted to - or, conversely, repulsed by - celebrity culture. ---Kitty Kelley, Washington Independent Review of Books You don't have to be into celebrity culture to appreciate this readable study. ---Steven Carroll, Sydney Morning Herald Olivia Vinall delivers an engaging narration of Marcus's exhaustive research on the origins of modern celebrity culture . . . [her] pace and tone are just right for this fascinating investigation of celebrity in our media-driven world. * Audiofile Magazine * [An] insightful and often entertaining take on celebrity. . . . The linchpin of the author's study is French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, a master of self-promotion. To the shelves of works about Bernhardt, Marcus brings a singular take-richly illustrated throughout by reproduced drawings, paintings, and photographs-that fascinates as it explains her concepts of celebrity. * Kirkus * In lucid prose, [Marcus] describes celebrity as a drama with three main characters: celebrities, the public that adores and judges them, and the media producers who exalt, criticize and satirize . . . The star of the book is Sarah Bernhardt . . . The book reproduces a rich trove of archival material which, if it does not bring Bernhardt back to life, at least reveals the scintillating liveliness of her image a century ago . . . Spend 200 pages with Sarah Bernhardt, and Kim Kardashian's provocations come to seem less shocking. ---Irina Dumitrescu, Times Literary Supplement Marcus's study of Bernhardt, a Jewish actress, is remarkable. Even though this is an academic text, it reads so well. And wow, could we read a bajillion more books on Sarah Bernhardt!!! ---Emily Burack, Alma

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