HISTORY 497 - History Colloquium
Fall 2023, Section 003 - The Uses of Fame in United States History
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


In recent years, it has become something of a cliche to describe ”celebrity culture” as pervasive and all-consuming—an inescapable feature of life in the twenty-first century. Today, one can become famous via Tik Tok, YouTube, and Spotify, as well as through the “older” media of newspapers, radio, television, and film. We’ve now experienced “celebrity Presidents” (from both the Left and the Right), but also celebrity dogs, cats, criminals, chefs, video gamers, and porn stars. More and more, we are all participants in this voracious cycle—from the countless selfies on our smartphones to our serial posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

But how did we get here? When did this culture of celebrity first take shape? How has it expanded over time? And what broader effects (both positive and destructive) has it unleashed on our increasingly fragile democracy? As a starting point, we will investigate the shifting contours of fame itself: from the pre-modern “cults of saints” to the subsequent rise of major figures in the larger cycle: P.T. Barnum, Frederick Douglass, and Sarah Bernhardt, FDR, Elvis Presley, Beyonce, and Donald Trump. We will also push beyond the shiny surfaces: from the first theatrical syndicates and Hollywood studios to social media, cookies, micro-targeting, and chatbots.

Course Requirements:

Short response papers on a few of the weekly readings; choice of a longer essay exam or individually defined research paper for the final project

Intended Audience:

This class is intended for History majors and minors, as well as those with some History background from contexts. There are no specific prerequisites for this class, but some background in modern U.S. and/or European history would be very helpful.

Class Format:



HISTORY 497 - History Colloquium
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
7LSA Jr>
Tu 4:00PM - 7:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
002 (SEM)
 In Person
3LSA Jr>
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
003 (SEM)
 In Person
1LSA Jr>
M 4:00PM - 7:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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