Celebrity and Life-Writing
Both life-writing and celebrity – as practices, phenomena and fields of research – are concerned with the notions of authenticity and intimacy, public and private, accessibility and aloofness, myth-making and revelation. Both explore the tension between individual agency and the shaping and appropriation of public images by cultural and socio-political frameworks, media industries, ideologies, and a whole network of agents. In spite of their many shared concerns, the close interconnections of life-writing and celebrity have only recently begun to be specifically addressed. The research strand on celebrity and life-writing I am co-ordinating at The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing aims to contribute towards a more sustained dialogue between these two closely interwoven fields and to trigger a conversation about what we as scholars and ‘practitioners’ may gain from combining their theories and methodologies. How can we benefit from integrating a life-writing perspective into our work on celebrity, and how does thinking about the nature of celebrity, the conditions of producing and consuming celebrity, change the way in which we write, read and study life narratives?
On 19 November 2016, I organised a one-day colloquium entitled “Celebiography: Celebrity and Life-Writing in Dialogue”, which sparked debates on how different degrees of fame, celebrity, and public (non-)visibility affect the representation of lives; on the challenges and the ethical questions that arise in the context of working on famous lives; and on the relationship between life-writing, celebrity, and questions of selfhood and identity.
Cultural Transfer and Reception
In my PhD research, I explored the transfer, dissemination, and reception of Wilde’s works on twentieth-century Viennese stages. Examining the successive phases of literary image construction, which, in Wilde’s case, neatly follow a distinctive pattern of forging, consolidating, modifying and, eventually, remodelling the playwright’s reputation in the local literary field, the study reveals the crucial role played by artistic networks, government censorship offices, translators, adaptors, directors, actors, and critics in the course of popularising, establishing, and reinterpreting Oscar Wilde’s works on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Viennese stages and thus sheds light on the mutual interdependence of cultural production, structural framework, and socio-historical background.