Why do we care so much about celebrities? Who decides who gets to be a star? Do celebrities deserve the outsized attention they receive? Sharon Marcus challenges everything you thought you knew about our obsession with fame. Drawing on scrapbooks, diaries, and vintage fan mail, she 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, as famous in her day as the Beatles in theirs. The Drama of Celebrity reveals how journalists, the public, and celebrities themselves all compete to shape the stories we tell about celebrities and fans, resulting in a high-stakes drama as endless as it is unpredictable.
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). Twitter @MarcusSharon
"[An] inventive, stimulating book. . . . Marcus is a brilliant theorist and analyst of theater history."—Elaine Showalter, New York Times
"Sharon Marcus's book is a tour de force."—Jonathan Margolis, Jewish Chronicle
"I love the book."—Radhika Jones, WBUR's On Point
"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."—Irina Dumitrescu, Times Literary Supplement
"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