TWTh 10:00-12:30 pm 235 Dwinelle Instructor: Johnathan Vaknin

Session D July 2nd – August 10th

“In the future,” the pop artist Andy Warhol once said, “everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” In an age of social media, when Facebook and Instagram “likes” and followers on Twitter seem to be measures of our celebrity status, Warhol’s prescient observation appears to ring especially true. This summer, we’ll spend time reading literary works, watching films, listening to songs, and perusing the pages of our favorite tabloids—replete with scandalous gossip about our most beloved (or despised) celebrities—in order to ask what, exactly, it means to be famous. From Michel de Montaigne’s essayistic musings on fame and notoriety to Pedro Almodóvar’s homage to the classic stars of Hollywood cinema in All About My Mother, the texts we’ll examine take as their central concerns a number of issues dealing with stardom and celebrity: the boundaries between the “public” self and the “private” self; the “authentic” and the “artificial”; the intersections between politics and celebrity culture; iconography and iconoclasm; and the permanence or decay of images. While most of our readings will ask how the figure of the celebrity gets represented, we’ll also expand our framework to think more broadly about fame and popular culture: why do certain cultural forms, and not others, go mainstream? And how might popular culture shed light on questions having to do with race, gender, sexuality, and class?

As part of the University’s R&C sequence, this course is designed, above all, to help students improve
their critical writing and reading skills. In addition to regular attendance and participation, requirements
include a series of essays—drafts and revisions—and short response papers.
Possible texts will draw from the following:
Literary works:
Plato, Symposium (selections) (385-370 B.C.)
Manuel Puig, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (La traición de Rita Hayworth) (1968)
Michel de Montaigne, “Not to Communicate A Man’s Honour,” from Essays (Essais) (1580)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays (1970)
Films:
Almost Famous, dir. Cameron Crowe (2000)
All About My Mother, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (1999)
All About Eve, dir. Joseph Mankiewicz (1950)
La Dolce Vita, dir. Federico Fellini (1961)
Fame, dir. Alan Parker (1980)
The Bling Ring, dir. Sofia Coppola (2013)
Twenty Feet from Stardom, dir. Morgan Neville (2013)
Tabloids and television shows:
OK! Magazine
The Wendy Williams Show
Mad Men
A course reader containing theoretical and critical work by Nicole Fleetwood, Walter Benjamin, Karen
Sternheimer, Sharon Marcus, Karen Tongson, and Daniel Boorstin.