The Drama of Celebrity


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
6.5 X 1.2 X 9.3 inches | 1.55 pounds

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About the Author

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


"A landmark book for the history of popular culture. Combining a rigorous analytical intelligence with deep, meticulous research into neglected sources such as fan scrapbooks, Marcus demonstrates how the nineteenth-century theater set the mold for celebrity culture today. A brilliant, transformative account of the way that celebrity works."--Deborah Cohen, author of Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain
"Utterly brilliant. Marcus travels back to the nineteenth century and returns bearing a high-definition mirror for our own celebrity-driven era. She maps the dynamics of fame, reveals their consistency through time, and teaches us how to better inhabit our mediated world today. No fan could ask for more."--Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties
"How did present-day ideas about celebrity come into being? What--and who--makes a celebrity? Excavating a cornucopia of unlikely sources, from dreams about celebrities to scrapbooks kept by ordinary fans, Sharon Marcus reveals the origins of celebrity culture to lie in dramatic negotiations between publics, media, and celebrities themselves. The resulting book is itself dramatic: a deeply researched story that manages to provide a long history of this timeliest of phenomena."--Leah Price, Harvard University
"The Drama of Celebrity is a stunning work of cultural history and social theory about what creates stars on the stage, the screen, and all platforms in between. Sharon Marcus has written both a brilliant account of the different actors whose work can make or break a celebrity, and a fascinating investigation into why so many people care. The result is a memorable book that will engage readers across the academy and beyond."--Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
"One of the great strengths of The Drama of Celebrity is its insistence--and proof--that the forms of celebrity and fandom we consider so modern go back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century. It is the fans who emerge as the stars of this book."--Eric Smoodin, University of California, Davis
"I have not read such a stimulating and original book for a long time. Marcus brings the experience and thrill of nineteenth-century theater to life, but that is only the start of it. With extraordinary elegance, she manages to think about the historical and the theoretical together, and this book will swiftly establish itself as one of enduring value and importance."--Clare Pettitt, King's College London
"[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
"[An] inventive, stimulating book. . . . [Sharon] Marcus is a brilliant theorist and analyst of theater history."---Elaine Showalter, New York Times
"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
"[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
"[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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"[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
"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
"I love the book."---Radhika Jones,
"[S]parky, feisty and compelling . . . . Sharon Marcus's book is tour de force and the author a total star."---Jonathan Margolis, Jewish Chronicle