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The Travel Narrative as Spin: Mitigating Charlie Chaplin’s Public Persona in My Trip Abroad and “A Comedian sees the World”
Stein, Lisa K.

2005, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Ohio University, English (Arts and Sciences).

Avant-garde writers such as T. S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein found in Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp persona an analogue for what they were attempting in poetry and prose: as Michael North notes, Chaplin brought a “rhythm back into realism” with his jerky gait and flexing cane, thereby disrupting normative behavior and comportment much like the modernist writers were disrupting literary conventions. This project demonstrates that Chaplin’s relevance to literary modernism is not confined to his work on film, but can be extended to his travel narratives as well. Akin to select celebrity author travel narratives such as Charles Dickens’ American Notes (1842) and Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography (1935) in purpose, one that diverges from the accepted usage of the travel narrative genre, Chaplin’s My Trip Abroad (1922) and “A Comedian Sees the World” (1933-4), also demonstrate a subtle promotional agenda much like ones recently uncovered for modernist writers, including James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. The dissertation argues that Chaplin’s travel narratives function as effective promotional vehicles through a conflation of his public and filmic personae by 1) creating verbal correlations to the visual rhetorical strategies he uses to portray the Little Tramp on film, 2) creating a democratic Chaplin-as-tourist persona in the narratives, 3) establishing a rhetoric of authenticity in the narratives (analyzed with the assistance of Richard Dyer’s tripartite theory of rhetorical authenticity for celebrity promotion), and 4) employing particular visual images in the narratives that work to confirm and extend these tasks.

“The Travel Narrative as Spin” demonstrates that the travel narrative proved to be the perfect promotional tool for Chaplin, because the Little Tramp was already “read” by audiences as an Everyman tourist-figure, in his dress, his demeanor, and his characteristic movement in films. Using Joshua Gamson’s theory of the celebrity-encounter game and Dean MacCannell’s theory of the tourist-attraction encounter, the dissertation reveals that Chaplin emerges in these narratives not only in the guise of his tourist persona, but also as a celebrity-author/tourist-attraction. Drawing on scholarship of celebrity and travel/tourism, then, this project offers a new reading of Chaplin’s particular significance for modernism and modernist studies.

Carey Snyder (Advisor)
232 p.

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Stein, L. (2005). The Travel Narrative as Spin: Mitigating Charlie Chaplin’s Public Persona in My Trip Abroad and “A Comedian sees the World”. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Stein, Lisa. "The Travel Narrative as Spin: Mitigating Charlie Chaplin’s Public Persona in My Trip Abroad and “A Comedian sees the World”." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2005. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 21 Jul 2017.

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Stein, Lisa "The Travel Narrative as Spin: Mitigating Charlie Chaplin’s Public Persona in My Trip Abroad and “A Comedian sees the World”." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2005. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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