UGA Press novel analyzes celebrity culture
Literary Celebrity and Public Life in the Nineteenth-Century United States
By Bonnie Carr O’Neill
University of Georgia Press
The University of Georgia Press has published a book that explores the relationship between the origins of celebrity culture and civic discourse.
Literary Celebrity and Public Life in the Nineteenth-Century United States shows how celebrity culture authorizes audiences to evaluate public figures on personal terms and in so doing reallocates moral, intellectual and affective authority and widens the public sphere. It is written by Bonnie Carr O'Neill, an associate professor of English at Mississippi State University.
The book uses extended readings of the works of P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass and Fanny Fern to examine how celebrity culture creates a context in which citizens regard one another as public figures while elevating individual public figures to an unprecedented personal fame.
This new publicity fosters nationalism but also imbues public life with personal feeling and transforms the public sphere into a site of divisive, emotionally intense debate.