We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture, but until the last ten years, we lacked a satisfactory history of celebrity.
Commentators on celebrity tended either to assume that it was a very recent phenomenon, or to imagine that fame had always functioned in the same ways. My research has pioneered a history of modern celebrity culture that treats it as a cultural apparatus with both material and discursive elements, and locates its origins in the explosion of print at the end of the eighteenth century.
My first book, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity (2007), used Lord Byron as a case study to show how the celebrity apparatus operated. I followed this with a collection of essays, Romanticism and Celebrity Culture (2009), which examined manifestations of celebrity in literature and the theatre, music and visual culture, fashion and boxing, to assemble the fullest available picture of celebrity culture in this pivotal period. Since these books appeared, studies of celebrity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have flourished, becoming an important area of research.