The Politics and Poetics of Camp

The Politics and Poetics of Camp

The Politics and Poetics of Camp

The Politics and Poetics of Camp

Synopsis

The Politics and Poetics of Camp is a radical reappraisal of the meaning and discourse of camp. The contributors look at both the meaning and the uses of camp performance, and ask: is camp a style, or a witty but nonetheless powerful cultural critique? The essays investigate camp from its early formations in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to its present manifestations in queer theatre and literature. They also take a fascinating look at the complex relationship between queer discourse and decidedly un-queer pop culture appropriations on film and on the stage. The Politics and Poetics of Camp is an incisive, uncontainable and entertaining collection of essays by some of the foremost critics working in queer theory, from a number of disciplinary perspectives. This book makes a well-timed intervention into an emerging debate.

Excerpt

In the last decade, Camp, or queer parody, has become an activist strategy for organizations such as ACT UP and Queer Nation, as well as a focus in utopian movements like the Radical Faeries. As practiced by these contemporary groups, Camp is both political and critical. Defying existing interpretations that continue to define Camp as apolitical, aestheticized, and frivolous, the contributors to this volume, prompted by its recently foregrounded political usages, attempt a reappraisal of the phenomenon. These writers suggest that Camp is not simply a “style” or “sensibility” as is conventionally accepted. Rather, what emerges is a suppressed and denied oppositional critique embodied in the signifying practices that processually constitute queer identities. Accordingly, the contributors to this volume operate from shared beliefs concerning the construction of Camp. These are: Camp is political; Camp is solely a queer (and/or sometimes gay and lesbian) discourse; and Camp embodies a specifically queer cultural critique. Additionally, because Camp is defined as a solely queer discourse, all un-queer activities that have been previously accepted as “camp, ” such as Pop culture expressions, have been redefined as examples of the appropriation of queer praxis. Because un-queer appropriations interpret Camp within the context of compulsory reproductive heterosexuality, they no longer qualify as Camp as it is defined here. In other words, the un-queer do not have access to the discourse of Camp, only to derivatives constructed through the act of appropriation.

The use of the word “queer” to designate what is usually referred to as “gay and lesbian” marks a subtle, ongoing, and not yet stabilized renomination. It is used by some of the writers in this volume for various reasons. “Queer” does not indicate the biological sex or gender of the subject. More importantly, the term indicates an ontological challenge to dominant labeling philosophies, especially the

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