Elvis Framed in Velvet: Fandom and Fanaticism in Modern Culture

By Sonja Luther.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Fandom and fanaticism play an enormous role in modern culture. Psychologists have analyzed the nature of fanaticism; however, this project approaches the question why people devote their lives to a popular artist such as Elvis from a philosophical standpoint. Fan and fanatic are not the same. In his essay “Unpacking My Library,” Walter Benjamin describes the book collector’s passion to preserve an object’s past; however, he explicates that it is not the object’s past that one actually preserves. According to Benjamin, book collectors give distinctive meaning to their books because they live in them. In Matter and Memory, Henri Bergson defines the dreamer as someone who lives in the past because he or she finds it more pleasurable than the present. The dreamer is driven by his or her recollections of the past without them having any advantage for the present life. Benjamin’s collector and Bergson’s dreamer share the desires of the fan and the fanatic. The passionate Elvis fan, which I call the “Benjaminian collector,” pays homage to Elvis as an attempt to preserve the past and his or her memories of it. On the other hand, the fanatic has left the real world and has become what I call the “Bergsonian dreamer,” who longs for an unrepeatable past and forces his memories to remain present. His or her obsession is to search for an identity, which he or she tries to find in somebody else’s life and identity such Elvis.

Keywords: Fandom, Fanaticism, Modern, Nostalgia, Elvis, Collecting, Memorabilia, Bergson, Benjamin

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.121-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 533.205KB).

Sonja Luther

Ph.D. Student, English Department, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA

Sonja Luther was born and raised in Germany. Ms. Luther began her academic studies at the Friedrich-Wilhelms Universitaet in Bonn. After an exchange year in Mississippi, Ms. Luther transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi, completing her M.A. thesis on German translations and theatre productions of plays by Tennessee Williams. Ms. Luther is currently working on her English literature Ph.D. at USM. Her literary interests include modernism, ecocriticism, German literature, and drama.

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