Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity

9780292723399: Hardback
Release Date: 1st April 2011

9780292744042: Paperback
Release Date: 15th May 2012

10 b&w photos

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 216

Series Literary Modernism

University of Texas Press

Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity

Hardback / £47.00
Paperback / £20.99

The phenomenon of celebrity burst upon the world scene about a century ago, as movies and modern media brought exceptional, larger-than-life personalities before the masses. During the same era, modernist authors were creating works that defined high culture in our society and set aesthetics apart from the middle- and low-brow culture in which celebrity supposedly resides. To challenge this ingrained dichotomy between modernism and celebrity, Jonathan Goldman offers a provocative new reading of early twentieth-century culture and the formal experiments that constitute modernist literature's unmistakable legacy. He argues that the literary innovations of the modernists are indeed best understood as a participant in the popular phenomenon of celebrity.

Presenting a persuasive argument as well as a chronicle of modernism's and celebrity's shared history, Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity begins by unraveling the uncanny syncretism between Oscar Wilde's writings and his public life. Goldman explains that Wilde, in shaping his instantly identifiable public image, provided a model for both literary and celebrity cultures in the decades that followed. In subsequent chapters, Goldman traces this lineage through two luminaries of the modernist canon, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, before turning to the cinema of mega-star Charlie Chaplin. He investigates how celebrity and modernism intertwine in the work of two less obvious modernist subjects, Jean Rhys and John Dos Passos. Turning previous criticism on its head, Goldman demonstrates that the authorial self-fashioning particular to modernism and generated by modernist technique helps create celebrity as we now know it.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity
    • Critical Problem Solving: Modernism and Popular Culture
    • The Field of Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity
    • Considering Celebrity
    • Why Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity
  • 1. Oscar Wilde, Fashioning Fame
    • Copying Oneself
    • Judging By Appearances in Dorian Gray
    • The Tragic Commodity
    • Deep Thoughts: Embodying the Subject in De Profundis
  • 2. James Joyce and Modernist Exceptionalism
    • Styling the Author
    • "Peeping and prying into greenroom gossip of the day"
    • "Famous Son of a Famous Father": Author, Character, Holy Ghost
    • The Dream of Immateriality
    • E.T.: The Extra-Textual
    • The Ghost of the Author
  • 3. Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Celebrity
    • Elite By Association
    • Unstable Values
    • The Trademark of Time
    • Name of Constant Value
    • A Democracy of One
  • 4. Charlie Chaplin, Author of Modernist Celebrity
    • Happy Endings
    • An Author Is Born
    • Sign of the Times
    • The Object of Celebrity
  • 5. Rhys, the Obscure: The Literature of Celebrity at the Margins
    • That Obscure Abject of Desire
    • Bildung in the Dark
    • The Hidden Rhys
    • Wide Sargasso City
    • Posthuman Beings
    • Celebrity on the Margins
  • Epilogue. "Everybody who was anybody was there": After Modernism, After Celebrity, John Dos Passos
    • The Camera, I
    • The In Crowd
    • Stein and They, Hemingway
    • U.S.A. and Hem
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

JONATHAN GOLDMAN is Assistant Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology’s Manhattan campus. A scholar of literature’s relationship to popular culture, he has made modernism and celebrity his particular field of expertise, coediting (with Aaron Jaffe) a volume of essays titled Modernist Star Maps: Celebrity, Modernity, Culture.

"Modernism is the Literature of Celebrity is a magical book and a path-breaking study. . . . A series of stunningly prescient and apposite chapters on Wilde, Joyce, Stein, Chaplin, Rhys, Dos Passos, and Hemingway, among others, follows through on the book’s bracing, provocative, and polemical premise for the centrality of celebrity in delineating what modernist literature was, and is. The book displays Professor Goldman’s command of every aspect of literary scholarship, including his range within the genre of the novel, and his ease and substance in entering mass media forms, especially those of photography, film, and mass-mediated celebrity discourses. He brings the brio of a first-rate theorist of modernity to bear on mass culture and all its forms. . . . Each chapter explores fresh territory and original terrain: modernism will hereafter be unthinkable absent Jonathan Goldman’s critical flags and unrecognizable without this dazzling, luminous book."

Jennifer Wicke, University of Virginia

"Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity is an important book, in which Jonathan Goldman makes a strong case for the position taken in the book’s title, supporting it with elegant readings of texts by an interesting range of modernists. It is well informed, clearly written, and very persuasive—a real contribution to modernist studies."

Robert Scholes, Research Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Co-Director, Modernist Journals Project, Brown University

"This book makes a very fresh, original, and substantial contribution to the study of both modernism and modern celebrity, and it is also a most enjoyable book to read. It is engaging in style and persuasively argued, and makes some unexpected and very insightful connections among a diverse range of authors. It is also founded on an impressive body of research. I strongly recommend it."

Faye Hammill, University of Strathclyde, author of Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars

"Goldman's thesis is ably pursued and very useful. He situates 'celebrity' as the 'missing link' between high and low culture in modernism, and I think he has a point."

James Joyce Quarterly