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Our Famous Blue Raincoat: The Phenomenon of Leonard Cohen and the Changing Discourses of Celebrity in Canada


Our Famous Blue Raincoat: The Phenomenon of Leonard Cohen and the Changing Discourses of Celebrity in Canada

Fillmore-Handlon, Charlotte Jane (2018) Our Famous Blue Raincoat: The Phenomenon of Leonard Cohen and the Changing Discourses of Celebrity in Canada. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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The history of Leonard Cohen’s career over the last sixty years is also a reflection of the development of contemporary celebrity culture in Canada. One of the main conditions that allowed this culture to emerge is the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (1949-51). As a result, the Canadian government strengthened cultural policy and developed the Canada Council for the Arts to support cultural production. In 1958, Cohen was a recipient of the new Canada Council Junior Arts Fellowships. Using the celebrity phenomenon of Cohen as my object of research, this dissertation asks: How is the discourse of celebrity constructed in Canada from the mid-twentieth century to the early decades of the twenty-first century? Developing a discursive analysis, I illuminate how we talk about celebrity in Canada at certain socio-historical moments and portray Canada as a nation ambivalent about celebrity. Within the early industrial production of Cohen’s poetic celebrity, discourses of literary celebrity, Canadian celebrity, and cultural nationalism discursively manage his biographical production as a popular and accessible poet. In turn, discourses of intimacy connect Cohen with his fans, as fans seek to discover the “real” Cohen through his poetry and music. However, these feelings of intimacy are disparaged through a discourse of the obsessive and emotional fan perpetuated in the media coverage of Montreal 2000: The Leonard Cohen Event. After Cohen’s death, I discover a shift away from this discourse. The media coverage of Cohen’s death circulates an affective atmosphere of grief and mourning, presents the emotionality of fans as appropriate, and offers socially normative ways of coping with this loss. I explore my own complex emotional reaction to Cohen’s death as a fan and academic through an autoethnographic approach, seeking to depathologize the emotional experiences of academia and fandom. One of the most significant changes in discourses of Canadian celebrity that I identify is a potentially seismic shift from willful avoidance to zero tolerance regarding problematic celebrity behaviour. In conclusion, I build on this discourse by exploring the things we do not talk about when we talk about Leonard Cohen.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Fillmore-Handlon, Charlotte Jane
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:October 2018
Thesis Supervisor(s):Wershler, Darren
ID Code:985146
Deposited On:07 Jun 2019 16:53
Last Modified:07 Jun 2019 16:53
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