A taxonomy of fame

  • David Giles


At this point it seems apposite to return to some of the concerns of the opening chapter, where I drew a distinction between ‘fame’ and ’celebrity’. Fame, I argued, is best regarded as the process by which people become well-known. What constitutes well-known-ness? It must surely be defined as a degree of public knowledge above what would be expected of an individual, given his or her social status and the type of relationship network s/he would be expected to have. This definition does not, by itself, account for the fact that, for whatever reason, some individuals are simply more popular than others. But fame is a level of well-known-ness beyond what can be achieved through mere popularity, and so it requires either a specific deed or achievement to generate publicity, or a vehicle for the spread of news. I have made this definition of fame sufficiently broad that it might be applied to limited contexts, such as a school or a small geographical area. Celebrity, by contrast, is a phenomenon associated with mass communication, specifically television and print media. All celebrities are famous; for better or worse, most famous people are now celebrities.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Braudy, L. (1997) The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History (2nd edition). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Martindale, C. (1990) The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Cited in Simonton, D. K. (1994) Greatness: Who Makes History and Why. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Gledhill C. (ed.) (1991) Stardom: Industry of Desire. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Griffiths, M. and Joinson, A. (1998) ‘Max-imum impact: The psychology of fame’. Psychology Post, 6, pp. 8–9.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    See Moran, J. (1998) ‘Cultural Studies and Academic Stardom’. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 1, pp. 67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 12.
    Simonton, D. K. (1997) ‘Career productivity: A predictive and explanatory model of career trajectories and landmarks’. Psychological Review, 104, pp. 66–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© David Giles 2000

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  • David Giles

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