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Miscellaneous Events: Modernism is the Literature of Celebrity: How Modernist Literature Created Celebrity As We Know It, and Vice Versa

May 5, 2011

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    Jonathan Goldman celebrates the publication of his book Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity, offering a startling new theory of early 20th century culture and the formal experiments that constitute modernist literature’s unmistakable legacy.  

    The mass technology and reproducible images saturating early 1900s society led to an elevation of celebrity as the very definition of what it still meant to be a person, while also turning individuals into brand-names, commodities, objects.   The literature of the first half of the 20th century, far from rejecting this celebrity logic, participated in it.  The innovations of writers such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and company—the very techniques that supposedly remove modernist authors from lowbrow popular culture–contribute to celebrity the idea of the author as icon.  

    Goldman's work, merging archival research and textual interpretation, addresses Charlie Chaplin's disdain for synchronized sound, Gertrude Stein's name-dropping, James Joyce's jokes, Oscar Wilde's fur coat, and the real reason Superman can fly. 

    A Writer in Residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study, Jonathan Goldman, PhD, is Assistant Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology’s Manhattan campus.   Goldman has made modernism and celebrity his particular field of expertise, co-editing a volume of essays titled Modernist Star Maps: Celebrity, Modernity, Culture (Ashgate 2010). He has published essays about 20th century culture in the journals Novel and Narrative and in the collection The Rise and Reason of Comics and Graphic Literature (McFarland 2010).   He earned his doctorate at Brown University and his BA at UC Berkeley.

    Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity will be available for sale and signing after the lecture.