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”The celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness.” (Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America (1961/1971), p. 57)
”[C]elebrity is a genre of representation and a discursive effect; it is a commodity traded by the promotions, publicity, and media industries that produce these representations and their effects; and it is a cultural formation that has a social function we can better understand.” (Graeme Turner, Understanding Celebrity (2013), p. 10)
Celebrities are the cornerstones of popular culture. They are also often hailed as the most recognizable specimens of a national culture. In this course we will explore the construct of Britishness through its icons, namely the people who are considered to represent a distinct British national character and identity (and who have in turn influenced it). Based on the seminal work carried out by Richard Dyer in his 1979 study Stars, we will look at British celebrities as cultural texts and analyse how they have been produced discursively within their national and historical contexts, while paying particular attention to how categories of difference such as race, class, gender, etc. shape the image of the celebrity as a national icon.
This course will take a project-based format and will be taught in three parts: The first part will introduce you to the academic field of celebrity studies in a British context and will take place online in April and May (via Moodle and MS Teams). The second part will take the form of a guided case study: You will choose a British (or Irish/Scottish/Welsh) celebrity, carry out research on your own, and submit three assignments to a deadline: a preliminary sketch of your project due in May, an annotated bibliography and a poster presentation of your research findings due in June. For the third and final part of the course, we will meet in person on campus in July (Saturday, July 3, 2021) and you will present your poster and research findings to the group. You must attend both the online sessions and the presentation day, and you must submit your assignments in time in order to get credit for the course.