Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Momin Rahman on A Short History of Celebrity

Fred Inglis. A Short History of Celebrity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, 322 pp. $US 29.95 hardcover (978-0-691-13562-5)

Fred Inglis has written a broad historical account of celebrity from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. However, he really ends his discussion in the late 1970s and pays only cursory attention to contemporary forms of celebrity culture.  Therein lies both the central attraction and problem with this book: it provides an eclectic journey through western culture from the era of modernity with interesting illustrative examples but it fails to provide a coherent explanation of celebrity as a category, or how that category has been transformed by the social forces that Inglis describes.  Moreover, his evident disdain for contemporary mass culture, and the related expansion of celebrity culture within it precludes an informative understanding or critique of celebrity in contemporary times. Read more