New Books In Dance

Julia Fawcett, “Spectacular Disappearances: Celebrity and Privacy, 1696-1801” (U. Michigan Press, 2016)



“How can the modern individual maintain control over his or her self-representation when the whole world seems to be watching?” This is the question that prompts Julia Fawcett‘s new book, Spectacular Disappearances: Celebrity and Privacy, 1696-1801 (University of Michigan Press, 2016). Drawing on a diverse range of material to analyze some of England’s earliest modern celebrities, Fawcett offers a fascinating glimpse into the paradoxes of their eighteenth-century autobiographical performances. More than just the rise of celebrity culture she argues, these performances can help deepen our understanding of the making – and unmaking – of the modern self. Using creative, playful and transgressive techniques, the celebrities in Fawcett’s study experimented with presenting themselves as legible to curious publics even as they obscured their identities through ‘overexpressive’ acts that helped enable their spectacular disappearance. The result is a tantalizing narrative that continues to fascinate, three centuries l