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Katherine Swancutt

Landmark anthropological works on fame have shown that gift-giving is often the vehicle for producing relations of 'positive value' and recognition. When viewing fame against the related notion of fortune, however, the focal point of study shifts to how people produce reputations that are 'beyond value' or 'priceless'. This article proposes that the Nuosu of Southwest China enter into an ongoing 'economy of ordeals' in order to accumulate priceless 'tokens of value' that increase their 'fate-fortune' and fame. It shows that ambitious Nuosu accept new ordeals to achieve fame, while comfortably viewing their accomplishments as akin to those of a predatory spider. Tellingly, though, these efforts are vulnerable to the counter-extractive maneuvers of other people and ghosts, which present the Nuosu with new ordeals that could deplete their resources.

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Teresa Barnes

Contemporary social history is premised on the idea of writing histories of ordinary people. This article reflects critically on the concept of “ordinariness“ as facilitated by the author's brief moment of personal fame and her professional experiences of learning and writing about women's and gender history in and of southern Africa. These perspectives then informed her attempts to write and publish a story of the brief encounter in the late 1930s between a member of her family and the brilliant African-American writer, Richard Wright. The article explores the parameters and definitions of “ordinariness“ in African and American history.

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Lissa Weinstein and Banu Seckin

When Craig, an oft-humiliated and unsuccessful street puppeteer, discovers a portal into the body of John Malkovich, he finds that fusion with a live “celebrity puppet” offers a solution to the dilemmas of being human— imperfection, vulnerability, and death. In this fantastical context, the filmmakers raise questions about intention, identity, authorship, and the wisdom of elevating narcissism over Eros. Although a desire to transcend the limitations of the mortal body may be ubiquitous, the unique solution offered in Being John Malkovich is the apparent triumph of this narcissistic fantasy, rather than an acceptance of reality. This article first explores the film's use of the universal imagery of narcissism and then examines how technology, which allows widespread access to a visually oriented media culture, and changes in the meaning of fame have altered the expression of narcissistic fantasies, as well as the anxieties that accompany their fulfillment.

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Fame, Notoriety and Madness

Edward Bulwer-Lytton Paying the Price of Greatness

Marie Mulvey-Roberts

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, one of the greatest innovators in literature and an important political figure of the nineteenth century, was the apotheosis of the great man.3 In view of this, it is surprising that he is all but forgotten today. When he is remembered, it is most likely to be as an object of buffoonery perpetuated by the competition at San Jose State University in California for the worst opening of a novel, inspired by the beginning of Paul Clifford (1830): ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.4 Unfairly, he is not commemorated for its humanitarian ending, which declares: ‘THE VERY WORST USE TO WHICH YOU CAN PUT A MAN IS TO HANG HIM’.

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Gender and the Politics of Literary Fame

Christina Rossetti and The Germ

Alexis Easley

The chronology of events leading to the publication of The Germ in 1850 is familiar to most scholars of nineteenth-century literature. In 1849, soon after the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), Dante Gabriel Rossetti persuaded the group to found a journal that would promote their aesthetic principles and establish their literary reputation. After much discussion, the brethren decided to title their periodical The Germ and appointed William Michael Rossetti its editor. In addition to involving members of the PRB, other like-minded writers were invited to contribute, including Coventry Patmore, William Bell Scott and Christina Rossetti.

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Jennifer McDonell

This article examines Robert Browning's and Henry James's writings to consider their responses to, and implication in, the production, circulation, and consumption of late nineteenth-century celebrity. For James, there were two Brownings – the private, unknowable genius and the social personality. From the time he first met Browning until 1912, James held to this theory in letters, essays, biography, and fiction; the Browning 'problem' became integral to James's fascinated engagement with other problems at the heart of celebrity culture. Both writers attacked celebrity discourses and practices (biography, interviews, literary tourism) that constructed the life as a vital source of meaning, thus threatening to displace the writer's work as privileged object of literary interpretation. Browning preceded James in insisting that the separation of public and private life was foundational to an impersonal aesthetics, and in exploring the fatal confusion between art and life that has been identified by theorists as central to celebrity culture.

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'Celebrities of the Future'

Fame and Notability in Henry James's Roderick Hudson and The American

Páraic Finnerty

This article examines Henry James's deployment of imagery of statuary, performance, and display to foreground conflicts between emergent forms of notability and older ideas of aristocratic renown, and his use of the figure of the American in Europe to draw attention to the complex intersections of nationality and gender in constructions of public recognition. Roderick Hudson (1875) positions the eponymous American sculptor as a lion in Europe, but reveals his fatal attempts to transcend the objectification and commodification accompanying fame. In The American (1877) Christopher Newman is briefly lionized by a French aristocratic family, but afterwards publicly spurned. Both novels contrast the fate of American men with the successful use of mechanisms of fame by women. Roderick Hudson's Christina Light successfully markets her beauty, becoming through marriage a figure of aristocratic renown, while The American's Noémie Nioche negotiates her rise in the world through self-promotion, finally passing as a noblewoman.

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The Anthropocene

A Critical Exploration

Amelia Moore

The Anthropocene is everywhere in academia. There are Anthropocene journals, Anthropocene courses, Anthropocene conferences, Anthropocene panels, Anthropocene podcasts, and more. It is very safe to say that the Anthropocene is having a moment. But is this just a case of fifteen minutes of fame, name recognition, and bandwagon style publishing? The authors in this issue of ARES think not, and we would like to help lend a critical sensibility to the anthropological consideration of the concept and its dissemination.

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The Anti-Empire of General de Boigne

Sentimentalism, Love, and Cultural Difference in the Eighteenth Century

William M. Reddy

Sentimentalism became a widely accepted practical code among the educated European elite in the late eighteenth century. In the 1790s, however, it went into rapid decline. One reason is that when Europeans tried to establish families and polities in line with the dictates of sentimentalism, these efforts often ended in failure. A noteworthy example is provided by the career of Benoît Leborgne, later known as Bennett de Boigne, who rose to fame as a soldier of fortune in India, founding a kind of anti-empire in collaboration with Mahadaji Sindhia between 1784 and 1795. The collapse of his state building efforts—and of his marriages—clearly demonstrate the pitfalls of "following one's heart" in the eighteenth-century manner.

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Eva-Sabine Zehelein

Some fifteen years ago, a distinguished chemistry professor at Stanford University closed his lab in order to write autobiographies, novels and plays. The ‘(god)father of the pill’ (a term he has often criticized) has received numerous scientific prizes and honours. Carl Djerassi is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (1973) and the National Medal of Technology (1992). He has been called an outstanding scientific hero of the twentieth century, well-situated in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and now even immortalized on an Austrian postal stamp. Djerassi decided to fence off his own personal garden patch on the vast prairies of belles lettres, and to create his own literary genre.