Transatlantic Culture and Celebrity in the Interwar Period

AHA Session 265
Monday, January 6, 2020: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
New York Ballroom West (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Paul Deslandes, University of Vermont

Session Abstract

It is well understood that an Anglo-American alliance emerged in the wake of World War I, paving the way for the “special” UK-US relationship that took center stage during the Second World War and post-War period. This panel will explore the evolution of this relationship, by examining the key role of culture and celebrity in fostering mutuality and a sense of collective purpose during the 1920s and 30s. The scholars gathered for this panel will include Hilary Hallett (Columbia University), who will discuss the British actress and ‘sex novelist’ Elinor Glyn and her work to put male Hollywood stars at the center of transatlantic debates about gender and sexuality in the 1920s; Cecilia Morgan (University of Toronto), who will trace the transatlantic successes of the Canadian actresses Beatrice Lillie and Margaret Bannerman, and determine what their stardom can tell us about the uses of imperial womanhood; and Arianne Chernock (Boston University), who will probe why and how Laurence Housman’s award-winning play Victoria Regina enthralled audiences in London and New York in the mid-late 1930s. The panel will be chaired by Sharon Marcus (Columbia University), whose book on The Drama of Celebrity will be published this year. Together, this international and interdisciplinary group of scholars will demonstrate the crucial role of stage and screen in brokering Anglo-American identities, elaborating on historian Laura Nym Mayhall’s insight that “an Anglophone culture of celebrity” became “a primary means by which Britons and Americans came to know each other in the interwar years.” At the same time, the papers included here will also use culture and celebrity to draw attention to some of the tensions and miscommunications that persisted (and in some cases intensified) between Britain and America during the interwar period, even as the two nations drew ever closer together politically and diplomatically. Given its comparative and thematic thrust, this panel is intended to engage not just Americanists and Europeanists, but also scholars interested more broadly in questions of culture, gender, sexuality, and empire.
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