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In the Limelight and Under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity

Edited by Su Holmes and Diane Negra

Published by Continuum, May 2011, 9780826438553, paperback, 352 pages, £19.99



This timely collection explores the politics of female celebrity across a range of contemporary and historical media contexts. Amidst concerns about the apparent ‘decline’ in the currency of modern fame (‘famous for being famous’), as well as debates about the shifting parameters of public/private visibility, it is female celebrities who are positioned as the most active discursive terrain. 

This collection seeks to interrogate such phenomena by forging a greater conceptual, theoretical and historical dialogue between celebrity studies and critical gender studies. It takes as its starting point the understanding that female celebrity is a particularly fraught cultural phenomenon with ideological and industrial implications that warrant careful scrutiny. In moving across case studies from the 19th century to the present day, this book works from the assumption that the case study should play a crucial role in generating debate about the dialogue between ‘past’ and ‘present’, and the individual essays seek to reflect this spirit of enquiry. 

Contents:
Introduction: Su Holmes, University of East Anglia and Diane Negra, University College Dublin, “In the Limelight and Under the Microscope: Forms and Functions of Female Celebrity” 
Chapter 1: Catherine Hindson, University of Bristol, “’Mrs. Langtry Seems to be on the Way to a Fortune:’ The Jersey Lily and Models of Nineteenth-Century Fame” 
Chapter 2: Abigail Salerno, Trinity College, “Helen Keller, Hollywood and Political Celebrity” 
Chapter 3: April Miller, University of Northern Colorado, “Bloody Blondes and Bobbed-Haired Bandits: Executing Justice and Constructing Celebrity Criminals in the 1920s Popular Press” 
Chapter 4: Ruth Barton, Trinity College, “Rocket Scientist!: The Posthumous Celebrity of Hedy Lamarr” 
Chapter 5: Anne Morey, Texas A & M University, “Grotesquerie as Marker of Success in Aging Female Stars” 
Chapter 6: Leslie Abramson, Lake Forest College, “Mia Farrow in the 1960s: Categorically Intangible” (partial reprint from 1960s Stardom Anthology) 
Chapter 7: Kim Allen, London Metropolitan University, “The ‘Right’ Kind of Fame?: Celebrity Culture and the Structuring of Young Women’s Fantasies of Success” 
Chapter 8: Caitlin Lewis, University College Dublin, “’Don’t Let Sofia’s Littleness and Quietness Confuse You:’ Sofia Coppola as Persona, Brand and Text” 
Chapter 9: Emma Bell, University of Brighton, “The Insanity Plea: Female Celebrities, Reality Media and the Pyschopathology of British Pop-Feminism” (partial reprint from Genders) 
Chapter 10: Margaret Schwartz, Fordham University, “The Horror of Something to See: Celebrity ‘Vaginas’ as Prostheses” (partial reprint from Genders) 
Chapter 11: Joselyn Leimbach, Indiana University, “Strengthening as They Undermine: Rachel Maddow and Suze Orman’s Homonormative Lesbian Identities:” 
Chapter 12: Alice Leppert and Julie Wilson, University of Minnesota, “Living The Hills Life: Lauren Conrad as Reality Star, Soap Opera Heroine, and Brand” (reprint from Genders) 
Chapter 13: Candice Haddad, University of Michigan, “Discourses of Censorship, Immigration and Terrorism: Exploring the Politics of Crossing Over through the Transnational Stardom of M.I.A.” 
Chapter 14: Anna Fisher, Brown University, “We Love This Trainwreck!: Sacrificing Britney to Save America” 

Review:
"This collection offers a serious and satisfying intellectual engagement with female celebrity as a trans-media phenomenon. Fourteen highly readable essays scrutinize a wide range of issues that arise from the gendering of celebrity, from Helen Keller's frustrated attempts to further socialist causes to the negotiation of lesbianism by television personalities Rachel Maddow and Suze Orman, from Lily Langtry's carefully calibrated financial exploitation of her status as Victorian beauty (and royal mistress) to Britney Spears' inscription as a symbol of American excess and indulgence during the height of the Iraq war. In the Limelight and Under the Microscope expands our understanding of the cultural, political, and theoretical implications of celebrity as something more than a "guilty pleasure." This book succeeds in showing how, in many different cultural, historical, and textual circumstances, gender politics has played an important role in the creation of celebrity and in the fascination that it holds for so many." Gaylyn Studlar is David May Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Program in Film & Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. 

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