McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Celebrity, Dorothy Jordan, Edmund Kean, Long eighteenth century, Nationalism, William Henry West Betty
In the discussions about contemporary celebrities, the femme fatale, the bad boy, the child star, and the wannabe have become accepted and even celebrated figures. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, however, actors and actresses who challenged acceptable strategies for celebrity behavior were often punished by exile, debt, disgrace, and humiliation. Some performers even faced a veritable textual and historical oblivion. Illegitimate Celebrity considers the careers of Dorothy Jordan, William Henry West Betty, Edmund Kean, and Margaret Agnes Bunn, and offers a historical genealogy of "illegitimate" performers who dared to break with social convention and struggled to define and redefine themselves according to strict social codes that dictated their behavior both onstage and off. By examining celebrity productions, portraits, caricatures, and performances as elements to producing celebrity, I demonstrate how the audiences used these public figures to create complex narratives regarding class, femininity, masculinity, marriage, nationalism, among others. Ultimately, the study of illegitimate celebrity reveals the role of celebrity in shaping these discursive structures and provides an important history for modern narratives regarding the role of celebrity in society.
Wehler, M. (2013). Illegitimate Celebrity in the British Long Eighteenth Century (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1347