Fame: The Ups and Downs of Celebrity
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Fame: The Ups and Downs of Celebrity

“[Fame is] a systematic cycle of celebration, consecration, and sacrifice,” according to Tom Payne. Whether you’re discussing an ancient hero like Oedipus or a modern pop star like Britney Spears, there is often a ritualistic cycle to fame and celebrity. The famous are built up and torn down. We exalt in their victory and rejoice in their defeat and demise.

We will discuss not only the pressures felt by celebrities of various sorts, but also the roles they play in the lives of ordinary people.

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William Monroe is professor of English and O’Connor Abendshein Professor and dean of the Honors College. He earned a B.A. with highest honors, special honors in English, at the University of Texas and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. After completing an M.A. in English, also at UT, he worked as managing editor of The Liberty (Texas) Vindicator, taught at Houston Community College, and returned to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. He has published numerous articles on various literary figures as well as Primary Care, a play about Alzheimer’s disease, and Power to Hurt, a book that was selected as an Outstanding Academic Book of the year by Choice magazine. In conjunction with his administrative responsibilities as dean of the College, he teaches Honors colloquia in contemporary American literature and serves as the director of the Common Ground Teachers Institute, a collaborative endeavor between University of Houston faculty and secondary school teachers that focuses on literature as a developmental and social resource for adolescents and young adults. He is also the founding director of Medicine and Society, a program and minor for UH students who wish to explore issues of health and health care through academic courses, research, fieldwork, internships, conferences, and keynote lectures. He currently serves on the board of KIPP Academy and is the president of the Board of Directors of the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association of Greater Houston. Dr. Monroe has led students in study abroad trips to Israel, Greece, Turkey, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern and Eastern Europe. He has been honored with the University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award and is presently working on a manuscript titled The Vocation of Affliction: Flannery O’Connor and the Myth of Mastery.