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The feminization of fame from Rousseau to de Staël

By Claire Brock

Abstract

This thesis seeks to address the literary, cultural and historical questions surrounding what I will suggest was the reconceptualization of fame in the second half of the eighteenth and the first two decades of the nineteenth centuries. The only previous analyses of celebrity in this period by Leo Braudy and by Frank Donoghue have claimed categorically that even though a democratization of fame occurred in this period only men had sufficient access to the fame machine and thus to the experience of the frenzy of renown. While I argue that this period witnessed the birth of modern concepts of celebrity, I will suggest that a modernization necessarily entailed a feminization of fame.\ud \ud Traditionally, heroic self-sacrifice had led to assured immortality, but with the rapidly expanding print culture of this period, celebrity was often instantaneous, achieved during a lifetime rather than a lifetime achievement. With the dissemination of the media, the rise of newspaper and periodicals and thus, more importantly, the increasing visibility of the celebrity as a person to be admired and emulated came the means to seduce an eager audience by manipulating one’s career or personal image. Opening with an examination of the confessional politics of Jean-Jacques Rousseau who sought and found a desiring audience for this outpouring of private sensibility and thus initiated a discourse of fame which no longer relied upon the classical stoicism apparent since Ancient Rome, I will investigate how women writers not only ‘puffed’ themselves in the press, but actively engaged in constructing distinct authorial personae in and through their writings. Far from cowering anonymously in the shades, women writers were actively seeking and achieving the limelight, attaining a level of cultural centrality previously thought by critics such as Braudy and Donoghue to be unattainable. Embracing the public and publicity itself, they took advantage of the shifting mechanics of celebrity to place their writings and, ultimately, themselves, on the rostrum, more than eager to gain literary laurels

Topics: PQ, PN0441
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2477

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Citations

  1. (1995). Moore's Fables for the Female Sex (Dublin:
  2. (1801). Public Characters of 1800-1801 (London:

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