“Mapping the Stars is as much about subjectivity as it is about celebrity. King engages in a serious, critical, and extraordinarily creative version of the Kevin Bacon game, drawing out a web of interconnected associations between films, star personae, gossip, and paratexts to build meaningful metonymic articulations between and across different celebrity networks and help subjects make sense of their intersubjective world.” —Casey Ryan Kelly, author of Apocalypse Man: The Death Drive and the Rhetoric of White Masculine Victimhood
Often dismissed as trivial or even “trash,” celebrity culture offers a unique way of considering what it means to be human. In Mapping the Stars, Claire Sisco King shows how close analysis of the complex and sometimes contradictory forms of celebrity culture can challenge dominant ideas about selfhood. In particular, as a formation that develops across time, mediums, and texts, celebrity is useful for demonstrating how humanness is defined by relationality, contingency, and even vulnerability.
King considers three stars with popular and controversial personas: Norman Rockwell, Will Smith, and Kim Kardashian. Working in very different contexts and with very different public images, these figures nonetheless share a consistent, if not conspicuous, interest in celebrity as a construct. Offering intertextual readings of their public images across such sites as movie posters, magazines, cinema, and social media—and deploying rhetorical theories of metonymy (a linguistic device linking signifiers by shared associations)—King argues that these stars’ self-reflexive attention to the processes by which celebrity is created and constrained creates opportunities for reframing public discourse about what it means to be famous and what it means to be a person.
Claire Sisco King is Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Chair of the Cinema and Media Arts Department at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Washed in Blood: Male Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Cinema.
Photo credit, Steve Green/Vanderbilt University
Chapter 1 Six Degrees of Subjectification: Theorizing and Practicing Metonymy
Chapter 2 American Queerer: Norman Rockwell and the Art of Queer Feminist Critique
Interstitial 1 A Chapter on AIDS
Chapter 3 Terms and Conditions: Reflections on and of Black Fame in the Case of Will Smith
Interstitial 2 The Eyes Have Had It
Chapter 4 Emotional Icons: Digital Culture, Networks of Affect, and Kim Kardashian