J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Call for Studies of Biography and Celebrity in the 1700s

Prof. Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon University and Prof. Nora Nachumi of Yeshiva University have issued a call for contributions to a scholarly volume entitled "Making Stars: Biography and Eighteenth-Century Celebrity."

They say:
A celebrity is not a person, exactly, but a construct established through the public discourse and representation that we now think of as celebrity culture. During the long eighteenth century, biography was key to an earlier form of celebrity culture that anticipates what we experience as modern celebrity.

This volume proposes to explore the relationship between biography and celebrity in the long eighteenth century. In inviting essays, we keep that relationship open to definition: are biography and celebrity mutually constitutive? Does one drive the other? Are there contradictions as well as connections between biography as a genre and the celebrity culture that is manifest in a wide range of print, visual materials, and embodied performances? Similarly, we maintain an open definition of celebrity to include the many different variations in the period: theatrical, criminal, aristocratic, royal, and even the freakish.

We welcome work that clarifies and gives nuance to the prehistory of the celebrity bio as a genre and that thinks about ways in which particular material and ideological conditions shaped the formal and experiential effects of celebrity during the period roughly between 1660 and 1830. Essays might focus, for example, on comparing biography’s relationship to celebrity representation in other genres and media; a specific challenge or problem posed by a person or text or a particular form of representation; or contested representational forms.

We also are interested in work that grows out of or reflects on the process of writing a modern biography of an eighteenth-century celebrity. How do biographies create celebrity? How do various rhetorics of biographical discourse contest or refuse celebrity? How might attention to the formal rhetorics of biographical studies provide us new ways to think about celebrity culture in the long eighteenth century and conversely how might the terms of celebrity studies allow us new insights into biography? What case studies allow us to see the constitutive work of celebrity and biography in action?
The editors invite abstracts 300-400 words long, accompanied by capsule biographies of the authors no more than 150 words long, by 15 Sept 2018. Material should be sent to both ks3t@andrew.cmu.edu and nachumi@yu.edu.

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