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Constructing Charisma

Constructing Charisma: Celebrity, Fame, and Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Constructing Charisma
    Book Description:

    Railroads, telegraphs, lithographs, photographs, and mass periodicals-the major technological advances of the 19th century seemed to diminish the space separating people from one another, creating new and apparently closer, albeit highly mediated, social relationships. Nowhere was this phenomenon more evident than in the relationship between celebrity and fan, leader and follower, the famous and the unknown. By mid-century, heroes and celebrities constituted a new and powerful social force, as innovations in print and visual media made it possible for ordinary people to identify with the famous; to feel they knew the hero, leader, or "star"; to imagine that public figures belonged to their private lives. This volume examines the origins and nature of modern mass media and the culture of celebrity and fame they helped to create. Crossing disciplines and national boundaries, the book focuses on arts celebrities (Sarah Bernhardt, Byron and Liszt); charismatic political figures (Napoleon and Wilhelm II); famous explorers (Stanley and Brazza); and celebrated fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac).

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-977-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Fame, charisma, celebrity—we use these three words commonly nowadays and often interchangeably. We grant celebrity status to prominent actors and actresses, sports figures, television personalities, and political leaders, some of whom we call famous and charismatic as well. As a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton is famous. He also enjoys celebrity status thanks to myriad magazine covers sporting his easily recognized face. And those with fond memories of his presidency tend to consider him charismatic as well. Princess Diana shared these attributes, only much more so, her apparent charisma enhanced by the whiff of royalty, the...

  5. Part I: Constructing Charisma

    • CHAPTER 1 Charisma and the Making of Imperial Heroes in Britain and France, 1880–1914
      (pp. 21-40)

      In 1874, an unknown French naval ensign, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, went to Africa to seek a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the smooth lakelike reaches of the Upper Congo River. He hoped to bypass the 32 cataracts that forbid all navigation on the lower Congo up to what became known as Stanley Pool. In exploring the banks of the Congo, Brazza claimed a huge swathe of Equatorial Africa for France. It mattered little that this territory lacked economic or strategic value. Brazza’s extraordinary bravery, his apparent willingness to suffer to achieve a nearly impossible goal, made him...

    • CHAPTER 2 “So Writes the Hand that Swings the Sword”: Autograph Hunting and Royal Charisma in the German Empire, 1861–1888
      (pp. 41-51)

      In 1876, high school student Nicolaas von Cammenga approached Emperor Wilhelm I with a personal request:

      Most Serene, High and Mighty Emperor!

      May Your Majesty graciously allow me to direct these lines to Your Majesty, lines meant only to prove my deepest reverence and greatest veneration for Your Majesty. I have a request for Your Majesty, which, if Your Majesty graciously deigns to take notice of it, Your Majesty can easily fulfill. It consists, namely, in having Your Majesty send me a picture of Your Majesty, my dearly beloved Emperor and King. Until now, I have had a photograph of...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Workings of Royal Celebrity: Wilhelm II as Media Emperor
      (pp. 52-66)

      Only rarely has Wilhelm II, the last Prussian King and German Emperor, been portrayed as a charismatic ruler.¹ This may not be surprising, as nineteenth-century monarchs are usually regarded, according to Max Weber’s ideal-types, as examples of traditional authority. Nevertheless, the reluctance to think about charisma and the Kaiser is regrettable, not least because Weber developed his concepts of authority against the backdrop of Wilhelm II’s rule.²

      At the time Weber pondered his ideas on charismatic rule, a dramatic transformation of the monarchy was underway, owing to the emergence of mass media in Germany. In what Walther Rathenau aptly branded...

  6. Part II: Celebrity as Performance

    • CHAPTER 4 From the Top: Liszt’s Aristocratic Airs
      (pp. 69-85)

      When Franz Liszt died in 1886, he was so famous that Eduard Hanslick, an influential Viennese music critic, claimed there was “no better known face in Europe.”² Hanslick was a master of the double-edged compliment, and he chose his words carefully. He did not say that Liszt was the best-knowncomposeror even the best-knownpianist—these, in Hanslick’s view, had already faded from public memory. It was literally theface, reproduced ad infinitum in journals, lithograph portraits, and other ephemera, that had created and sustained Liszt’s pan-European celebrity. Hanslick’s comment voices a suspicion that has dogged celebrated public figures...

    • CHAPTER 5 Celebrity Gifting: Mallarmé and the Poetics of Fame
      (pp. 86-102)

      There are myriad approaches to investigating how celebrity is constituted and conferred. The symbolist writer Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898) offers a good case for testing approaches to the historiography of fame in nineteenth-century France. Mallarmé can be seen as the prototype of a contemporary “I am not there” model of celebrity. A nobody in full view (photographed by Nadar, the subject of portraiture by Edouard Manet, Edvard Munch, and Paul Gauguin), he demonstrated an idiosyncratic form of media savvy that involves making a name for oneself through self-annexation to an international cast of creative, talented, beautiful people—writers, thinkers, artists,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Rethinking Female Celebrity: The Eccentric Star of Nineteenth-Century France
      (pp. 103-116)

      Does female celebrity in the nineteenth century warrant our particular attention? Does it differ significantly from male celebrity or can it be deemed impervious to gender norms? InThe Frenzy of Renown, Leo Braudy left such questions aside, focusing his history of fame mostly on men. Though he never denies that societies could celebrate women, he does not examine what happens when they do. It is this question that interests the historian Lenard Berlanstein, who argues that celebrated women, and actresses in particular, evoked more attention than did their male counterparts. Because celebrity in the nineteenth century was defined as...

  7. Part III: The Politics of Fame

    • CHAPTER 7 Byron, Death, and the Afterlife
      (pp. 119-133)

      Quand on nous a annoncé la mort de Byron, il nous a semblé qu’on nous enlevait une part de notre avenir.”¹ Victor Hugo’s anguished response to the death of Byron was echoed across Europe. Jane Welsh, the future wife of Thomas Carlyle, wrote of her own reaction: “My God, if they had said that the sun or the moon had gone out of the heavens, it could not have struck me with the idea of a more awful and dreary blank in the creation than the words ‘Byron is dead!’” While Carlyle himself felt “as if I had lost a...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Historical Actor
      (pp. 134-144)

      After the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, visitors from across Europe thronged to the field of battle outside the city of Brussels. In the very first weeks, the site was still littered with the debris of decamped soldiers and the remains of the dead. InA Visit to Flanders in July 1815, the Englishman James Simpson reported that all around him “lay the melancholy remains of the clothes, accoutrements, books, and letters of the dead.” Indeed, written materials “were spread over the field like the rubbish of a stationer’s shop.” Charlotte Eaton was also struck by “the quantities...

    • CHAPTER 9 Celebrity, Patriotism, and Sarah Bernhardt
      (pp. 145-154)

      After Queen Victoria, Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) was probably the most celebrated woman of the nineteenth century and certainly the most famous Frenchwoman. Apart from the drawing power of her obvious talent (the opinions of her theatrical detractors notwithstanding), Bernhardt’s colossal celebrity was dependent upon and inextricably bound up with French prestige: its ancient and recent history, its real and imagined travails. The extent to which Bernhardt and France were the Gemini twins of thefin-de-siècletheatrical firmament became clear to me when Carol Ockman and I organized the exhibition, “Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama,” for New York’s...

    • CHAPTER 10 Heroes, Celebrity, and the Theater in Fin-de-Siècle France: Cyrano de Bergerac
      (pp. 155-164)

      The author of these hyperbolic words is Rosemonde Rostand, describing the reactions to the dress rehearsal of her husband’s playCyrano de Bergerac.¹ First presented on the Parisian stage on 27 December 1897, just two weeks prior to the publication of Émile Zola’sJ’Accuse, Edmond Rostand’sCyrano de Bergerachas become one of the most beloved and most often staged plays in the history of the French theater.² Not only did the play mark the birth of Cyrano as a national figure, it also announced the arrival of Rostand as a worldwide celebrity. Almost immediately, Rostand received the Legion of...

  8. CONCLUSION: Secular Anointings: Fame, Celebrity, and Charisma in the First Century of Mass Culture
    (pp. 165-182)

    When I was somewhere in the middle of writingThe Frenzy of Renown— which turned out to be a twelve-year project—my agent started getting anxious. “You’d better hurry up and finish,” she said. “Soon, no one’s going to be interested in fame any more.” Yet today, more than twenty years later, US culture as well as global culture generally seems more flooded than ever before with the dissemination and merchandising of names and faces that are the hallmarks of modern fame.

    To give her comment some credit, though, I must admit that fame is a somewhat odd subject to...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 183-214)
    (pp. 215-216)
    (pp. 217-224)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-232)