“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” opines the dissipated Lord Henry in the opening chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Oscar Wilde’s novel of celebrity. Less blithely, however, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us, in her TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009), that the way we talk about others can also recapitulate cultural injustice: “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” For Adichie, who kept her pregnancy very much out of the public eye, being talked about is often unwelcome, especially under pressure to “perform pregnancy.”
C4: The Conference on Contemporary Celebrity Cutlure at Drake University, June 9-11, 2019, will consider the problematic of being “talked about” nearly 130 years after Wotton’s prescient utterance, in what some might argue is a very different celebrity-cultural moment. Over the conference’s two days, twenty-five presenters will offer their insights into, and interpretations of celebrity as it manifests itself in arenas as diverse as popular music, constitutional jurisprudence, political and social activism, American literature, advertising, fan fiction, and beyond. All fifteen-minute presentations will take place in a plenary format to allow for a rich, cross-disciplinary discussion, and participants will be invited to submit longer, revised versions of their papers for inclusion in a collection of essays to be published with a scholarly press.
In addition to the scheduled presentations, participants are invited to attend an opening dinner on the evening of June 9th and a conference reception and party on the evening of the 10th, and will enjoy access to Drake’s gym, conditioning, and acquatic facilities.