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How can the modern individual control his or her self-representation when the whole world seems to be watching? The question is not a new one Julia Fawcett traces it back to 18th-century London-—and to the strange and spectacular self-representations performed there by England's first modern celebrities. Included in Spectacular Disappearances are the enormous wig that actor, manager, and playwright Colley Cibber donned as Lord Foppington—and that later reappeared on the head of Cibber's cross-dressing daughter, Charlotte Charke; the black page of Tristram Shandy, a page so full of ink that it cannot be read; the puffs and prologues that David Garrick used to heighten his publicity while protecting his privacy; the epistolary autobiography of Garrick's protégée George Anne Bellamy; and the elliptical poems and portraits of poet, actress, and royal courtesan Mary Robinson, known throughout her life as Perdita. Fawcett proposes the concept of "over-expression" as the unique quality that unites these events, allowing celebrities to meet their spectators’ demands for disclosure without giving themselves away. Like a spotlight so brilliant it is blinding, these exaggerated but illegible self-representations suggest a new way of understanding key aspects of celebrity culture across time. They also challenge many of the disciplinary divides between theatrical character and novelistic character in 18th-century studies, or between performance studies and literary studies today. Drawing on a wide variety of materials and methodologies, Spectacular Disappearances provides an overlooked but indispensable history for those interested in celebrity studies, performance studies, and autobiography—and anyone curious about the origins of the eighteenth-century self.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page
  2. pp. i-iii
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  1. Copyright Page
  2. p. iv
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. v-x
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 13-34
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  1. Chapter 1. The Celebrity Emerges as the Deformed King: Richard III, the King of the Dunces, and the Overexpression of Englishness
  2. pp. 35-72
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  1. Chapter 2. The Growth of Celebrity Culture: Colley Cibber, Charlotte Charke, and the Overexpression of Gender
  2. pp. 73-109
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  1. Chapter 3. The Canon of Print: Laurence Sterne and the Overexpression of Character
  2. pp. 110-147
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  1. Chapter 4. The Fate of Overexpression in the Age of Sentiment: David Garrick, George Anne Bellamy, and the Paradox of the Actor
  2. pp. 148-184
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  1. Chapter 5. The Memoirs of Perdita and the Language of Loss: Mary Robinson’s Alternative to Overexpression
  2. pp. 185-217
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  1. Coda: Overexpression and Its Legacy
  2. pp. 218-226
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 227-256
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 257-274
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 275-296
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