20 The Drama of Celebrity with Sharon Marcus (JP)

John sits down with Columbia University professor Sharon Marcus to discuss her latest book, The Drama of Celebrity, a tour-de-force argument about how stars are born, publicized, and in time devoutly scrapbooked by adoring fans.

They tackle a question at least as old as Sarah Bernhardt: who or what makes a star? Rather than crediting star making to the culture industry, to fans, or to star themselves, Sharon makes the case that all three forces together constitute a celebrity creation machine.

After discussing her archival work on theatrical scrapbooking in Indiana, Sharon pulls from the vaults a marvelous Hollywood memoir, Brooke Haywood’s Haywired. That triggers discussion of the studio system and how its models of celebrity are and are not with us today.

Sharon’s two Recallable Books also capitalize on mid-century notions of celebrity: Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford and Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. John’s choice, The Entertainer by Margaret Talbot, another biographical account written by a star’s daughter, gives a slightly rosier perspective on the family memoir.   

Discussed in this episode:

Sharon Marcus, The Drama of Celebrity

Daniel Boorstin, The Image (“a person who is known for his well-knownness”)

Theodor Adorno and Theodore Horkheimer, “Culture Industry” in Dialectic of Enlightenment

Henry Jenkins, “Textual Poachers

Dick Herbdige, “Subculture: The Meaning of Style

Mark Twain, Patented Scrapbook Innovator

Brooke Hayward, Haywire

Christina Crawford, Mommie Dearest

Christina and Joan Crawford

Jean Stein, George Plimpton, Edie, American Girl

Margaret Talbot, The Entertainer

Listen to the episode here

Transcript available here:

Happy 2020! This is the last episode in our Fall 2019 season. We will return in January with a whole set of new episodes we are working on right now. Food art will feature, and so will debates on caste, class and educational access as they unfold in India and in the U.S. What else is on the list? Stay tuned to find out……

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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