Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sharon Marcus

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 and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London.

Marcus's new book is The Drama of Celebrity.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The actress Sarah Bernhardt is a major focus of The Drama of Celebrity. Why did you choose to highlight her and her career in the book?

A: Before Lady Gaga, before Elizabeth Taylor, before Gloria Swanson, there was Sarah Bernhardt. Born in France in 1844, in the 1870s she became the first global superstar. A classically trained actress who was also a genius at self-promotion, Bernhardt was one of the first famous people to develop a private persona for public consumption.

We know very little about her true private life — the father of her only child, for example, remains a mystery. But by letting painters and photographers into her home, where she also granted interviews to journalists into her home, by having herself portrayed sleeping in a coffin in her bedroom, she gave strangers the impression that they knew her intimately.

The celebrity culture we live with today began in the mid-19th century with the rise of the cheap press and commercial photography, the rapid spread of information via telegraph cables, and the ability of people to move themselves around the world via steamships and railways. Born at the perfect time to take advantage of all of these technologies, Bernhardt became the...[read on]
Learn more about The Drama of Celebrity at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Drama of Celebrity.

--Marshal Zeringue