PMLA, October 2011
Oscar Wilde’s Salome, composed in French in 1891, represents both an episode in the history of celebrity and a dramatization of celebrity’s theatrical structure. The play first entered the orbit of stardom when Sarah Bernhardt, internationally hailed as the world’s greatest actress, agreed to play the title role in 1892; its author had long been a celebrity, known as much for his artfully crafted persona as for his published writings. Bernhardt, Wilde, and Salome, a play in which almost every character is both fan and idol, were all defined by the volatile conjunctions shared by theatricality and celebrity: the asymmetrical interdependence of actors and audiences, stars and acolytes, exhibition and attention, distance and proximity, absolutism and democracy, exemplarity and impudence, worship and desecration, and presence and representation.
View the paper here: Salomé!! Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, and the Drama of Celebrity