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Nicola Vinovrški: Casanova: A Case Study of Celebrity in 18th Century Europe [Abstract]

Historical studies of celebrity, or particular instances of it, focus on figures who had fame which could be tied to a particular achievement or ascribed status; for example, writers, politicians, actors, artists, composers, musicians, and monarchs. These studies suggest that there were certain shifts which occurred during the 18th century which allowed celebrity to develop, that there were many theatrical and literary celebrities during this period and that the phenomenon really gained traction in the Romantic era. These studies put paid to the idea that celebrity is a very recent phenomenon, the product of technological developments (though many still do make the claim). What they have not done adequately is test the edges of the phenomenon of celebrity. Casanova’s well-knownness has been given no critical attention by scholars of either Casanova or of historical celebrity. However, he was a celebrity and in such an archetypically modern way that he calls into question the currently perceived historical limits of celebrity. His case study demonstrates that there is much more to be done in relation to investigating historical celebrity and that plotting its origins in the Romantic era or even the mid-18th century may be to give it short shrift.

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