Monthly Archives: January 2018

Key (303)

Usually over the course of a class meeting we’ll end up with a list of keywords. On Thursday we not only cataloged the various permutations of “modern” but introduced a few terms related to the gothic mode.

Among these were camp and atmosphere. We also noted the difference in tone between two goth texts: the cooler, slightly more detached style of Xmal Deutschland and the theatrical intensity of Peter Murphy’s stage persona. In both cases, goth signifiers such as costume and body English were put into play in a more or less self-reflexive fashion.

Maybe that’s down to a matter of degree. If you screen “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” by The Cramps you’ll probably note the spasmodic, hysterical quality of Lux Interior’s performance.

You might revisit Baraka’s rendition of “Dope,” for further contrast. As somebody noted in class our poet relies on caricature to make his critique of ideological mystification. He borrows tropes from the genre of Blackface Minstrelsy such as nonstandard English and the poem’s buffoonish speaker, who seems to be a preacher. The effect is angry, occasionally funny (amos pootbootie!) and grotesque, and combined with the invocation of the Devil arguably gothic. (If you’re interested in learning more about racial masquerade there is a wealth of scholarship out there including studies by Rip Lhamon, Donald Bogle, Eric Lott and Louis Chude-Sokei.)

A word on usage: capitalize Gothic when referring to the European peoples (Goths) and to art and architecture. Use lower case, gothic or goth, when referring to other cultural forms such as films and novels or members of the subculture. Here’s what the MLA style guide says:

A modern editorial style keeps capitalization to a minimum. In MLA style, a movement or school of thought is only capitalized when it could be confused with a generic term–for example, Romanticism or New Criticism.


The way it feels



What is never properly understood by those who do not experience it is how deep the rage over inequality goes once it is made conscious, how far-reaching it can be and yes, how unforgiving. At the moment, the hated imbalance between women and men, the one that all men, everywhere, have exploited for centuries, is in the dock, and women in the thousands have risen up to bring charges against men of power with the crime of having looked not at them but through them for as long as any of them could remember. These women are not yet Madame Defarge knitting at the foot of the scaffold, but half a century of insufficient progress, on the score of sexual predation alone, now fills their heads with blood and leads them to lash out at its ongoing pervasiveness, branding men to the left and to the right with accusations that include acts of real evil as well as those of vulgar insensitivity. As James Baldwin might have put it, an oppressed people does not always wake up a saint; more often it wakes up a murderer.

For many of us, it is dismaying to behold, in a movement meant to correct for social injustice, the development of what can seem like vigilante politics; the dismay, in fact, is being accorded disproportionate attention, as though its existence is more important than what gave rise to it. But if we stop for a moment to think rather than react, we soon come to realize that the courageous demand that begins with a visionary’s declaration of rights can, and usually does, descend quickly into the maddened belligerence characteristic of those who cannot stop rehearsing a grievance that feels very old and reaches far into the past. That is the course history has usually taken, and for the moment, we in America are all trapped in its turmoil.

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