Dr Rebecca Hutton – An Opportunity to ‘explore’ The Cultural History of Fame

Contemporary Histories Research Group member Dr Rebecca Hutton shares details of an upcoming event:

In early June, Deakin University will be supporting a cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional symposium entitled Exploring the Cultural History of Fame. This event will map the ways visibility, cultural value and reputation have been shaped across eras. Starting with the contemporary era, the presentations will progressively reach back into history to examine constructions of fame and celebrity through the lens of people, objects, events, and/or places. Professor Mary Luckhurst (Melbourne University) will focus on intersections of celebrity in instances where contemporary celebrity actors take on roles as real-world celebrity figures. Dr Victoria Duckett (Deakin University) will address Sarah Bernhardt’s early 20th century works as examples of her role in augurating global celebrity as we understand it today. And Professor David Marshall (Deakin University) will demonstrate the ways in which the concept of fame is wedded to the idea of human history itself, drawing on a series of examples from antiquity to the modern age. From the construction and communication of fame, to infamy and scandal, to fame in relation to the arts, politics, science, religion and more, this symposium offers an opportunity to engage with notions of fame across eras through multiple lenses. 

On behalf of David, Victoria, Mary (and myself!), we would love for you to join us. The event will be held Monday 5th June, 9am – 12noon, at Deakin Downtown. To express interest and/or to learn more about the event please feel free to get in touch by contacting me at r.hutton@deakin.edu.au.

‘The launch of global celebrity: Sarah Bernhardt and cinematized theatre’ – Victoria Duckett

This presentation will examine Sarah Bernhardt’s little known involvement in the film industry at the opening of the twentieth century. It will suggest that Bernhardt’s engagement with film in her 50s and 60s inaugurated global celebrity as we understand it today. Her 1900 Hamlet, as well as excerpts from the first feature film in America (Queen Elizabeth, 1912), the first celebrity home movie (Sarah Bernhardt at Home, 1915) and one of the first propaganda films (Mothers of France, 1917) will be shown.

‘Staging fame: celebrity actors playing real-life celebrities’ – Mary Luckhurst

 Actors and actresses have been assigned significant and particular cultural value in modern western democracies and are integral to our understanding of constructions of fame and cultural identity. The contemporary market for the consumption of real lives has led to an increasing demand for actors to play or impersonate real people. In this paper I reflect on how playing a real-life celebrity can impact on a well-known actor’s career and how those complex stagings of dual celebrity identities can be very effective strategies in the construction of forging star identity.

‘The impossibility of the Cultural History of Fame’ – P David Marshall

Fame has long been an object of desire even as its ethical value has changed and shifted over the centuries. This presentation introduces The Cultural History of Fame project, which will involve a 2X6 volume edited series (featuring 96 contributors), two international symposia, and research teams investigating fame from antiquity to the contemporary (with one team studying the Cultural History of Fame from a Western perspective and another from an Asian perspective). I will identify some of the visible examples of fame throughout different historical epochs as well as present the pattern and structure of inquiry that will inform this impossibly complex intellectual journey for all involved.



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