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.