Book Details

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    • October 2008
    • 9780231145404
  • 176 Pages
  • Hardcover
  • $35.00
  • / £24.00


    • October 2008
    • 9780231518581
  • 176 Pages
  • E-book
  • $34.99
  • / £24.00

The Star as Icon

Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption

Daniel Herwitz

Princess Diana, Jackie O, Grace Kelly—the star icon is the most talked about yet least understood persona. The object of adoration, fantasy, and cult obsession, the star icon is a celebrity, yet she is also something more: a dazzling figure at the center of a media pantomime that is at once voyeuristic and zealously guarded. With skill and humor, Daniel Herwitz pokes at the gears of the celebrity-making machine, recruiting a philosopher's interest in the media, an eye for society, and a love of popular culture to divine our yearning for these iconic figures and the role they play in our lives.

Herwitz portrays the star icon as caught between transcendence and trauma. An effervescent being living on a distant, exalted planet, the star icon is also a melodramatic heroine desperate to escape her life and the ever-watchful eye of the media. The public buoys her up and then eagerly watches her fall, her collapse providing a satisfying conclusion to a story sensationally told—while leaving the public yearning for a rebirth.

Herwitz locates this double life in the opposing tensions of film, television, religion, and consumer culture, offering fresh perspectives on these subjects while ingeniously mapping society's creation (and destruction) of these special aesthetic stars. Herwitz has a soft spot for popular culture yet remains deeply skeptical of public illusion. He worries that the media distances us from even minimal insight into those who are transfigured into star icons. It also blinds us to the shaping of our political present.

About the Author

Daniel Herwitz is the Mary Fair Croushore Professor of Humanities and director of the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on the aesthetics of film, music, and visual art, and his monograph on the Indian painter M. F. Husain won a National Book Award in that country. Herwitz is the author of Race and Reconciliation, a book based on his experiences in South Africa, and short stories that have appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review. A philosopher by training, Herwitz is also the coeditor, with Lydia Goehr, of The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera.

Essential for those with a keen interest in the sociology of popular culture and stardom.

A dazzling book... that manages to pack an astonishing amount of detail and depth into a modest number of pages... Highly recommended.

The Star as Icon can be compared with Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness, but is more contemporary and less optimistic. The book studies significant movies ( Rear Window, The Philadelphia Story), is culturally literate, and is very good on the idea of aura and popular culture as it has evolved since Walter Benjamin. Required reading for any course in film studies.

Arthur Danto, Columbia University

An eloquent essay that contributes to the contemporary discourse on celebrity and stardom.

Leung Wing-Fai

Preface and Acknowledgments1. The Candle in the Wind2. There Is Only One Star Icon (Except in a Warhol Picture)3. Therefore Not All Idols Are American4. A Star Is Born5. The Film Aura: An Intermediate Case6. Stargazing and Spying7. Teleaesthetics8. Diana Haunted and Hunted on TV9. Star Aura in Consumer Society (and Other Fatalities)NotesIndex

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2009