Art & Action: The Intersections of Literary Celebrity and Politics

art and action


This one-day symposium, supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the TORCH Celebrity Research Network, will explore the intersections of literary celebrity and politics across historical periods and media.

In line with a long literary tradition of the artist as propagandist, who strives to appeal to the political, moral, and social conscience of his/her readership, writers have persistently crossed the divide between art and politics both in their works and in their roles as public intellectuals, cultural critics, and political activists. Moreover, established authors have, with striking regularity, taken advantage of their celebrity status in order to draw attention to specific socio-political agendas, thus demonstrating the convertibility of what Olivier Driessens refers to as ‘celebrity capital’. The papers in this symposium will address the complex interplay of authorship, politics, and fame/celebrity within an Anglophone cultural context, with case studies ranging from the 16th century to the present. They will focus on Oscar Wilde, Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, Salman Rushdie, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others, and cover a broad spectrum of themes, including literary celebrity and the politics of class, gender, and race; the tension between authorial self-fashioning and media appropriation; and the dual commitment to art and action of writers in political office.

Papers will be followed by a round table discussion that aims at a more general exploration of the socio-political dimension of cultural production. Members of this expert panel will revisit some of the day’s recurring themes revolving around the author as public intellectual and political spokesperson who is caught up between ideals of moral responsibility and the imperatives of a celebrity-centred marketplace. They will assess the political impact of literary authorship in an age of celebrity advocacy and how this impact is shaped by academic institutions, prize-giving bodies, publishing industries, and digital media. 

This symposium illuminates the interdependence of individual agency and processes of industry, media, and audience appropriation that has informed the production and consumption of fame and celebrity across historical periods, thereby shedding light on the cultural history of these phenomena.

Attendance will be free of charge and open to all, though places are limited.

To book your tickets, click here. PLEASE NOTE: Those booking the conference via University Stores will need to book the Benjamin Zephaniah keynote separately via Eventbrite. (This event has passed.)

To register or for more information, please contact the organiser, Sandra Mayer (Erwin Schrödinger Research Fellow, University of Vienna / Wolfson College)

More information may be found on the conference's website.

Celebrity Research

Audience: Open to all

Art and Action Conference Poster