Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Linda M. Grasso

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities

Keywords

Joan Didion, literary celebrity, literary persona, public persona, photographs, public image

Abstract

This thesis is not a traditional biography of Joan Didion — it is an examination of her celebrity and her dual personas that make her public face. It begins with an analysis of Didion’s 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That” as demonstrative of her literary persona. Then by tracing the prominent times and places the essay was published and paid tribute to, this thesis documents Didion’s rising celebrity to her status as a member of the literary elite. The second half of the thesis is an exploration of Didion’s persona through photographs. Where her literary persona shares intimate details of her personal life with the reader, Didion’s photographic image — the “cool-girl” poses, not smiling, hiding behind large sunglasses, holding a cigarette, a drink in her hand — fuels the impression she is guarded, elusive, and yet also alluring. Didion’s public persona is made up of these two seemingly contradictory halves. They work well together, allowing Didion space within her celebrity to control what and how she shares personal information with the public. This is how she ultimately controls her own story.

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