Article

Both Remedy and Poison: Religious Men and the Future of Peace

Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality 01/2010;
Source: DOAJ

ABSTRACT The following address was delivered at the Parliament of the World’s Religions on 6 December 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.

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    ABSTRACT: Modernism/Modernity 5.2 (1998) 181-183 Since Sontag's 1964 meditation on camp proclaimed that "It goes without saying that the Camp sensibility is disengaged, depoliticized -- or at least apolitical," the politics of the closet have been reconstituted such that David Bergman can claim, in his 1993 anthology Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality, "no style is so highly charged by sexual politics, no manner so clearly a sexual political act as is camp. Feminist film theory has traveled an equally long path (along an avant-garde/popular-culture axis) since Laura Mulvey's now classic "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975) and its visual analogue, Riddles of the Sphinx (1976). In Guilty Pleasures, Pamela Robertson argues for the possibility of a history of "feminist-camp" practice -- a practice "which runs alongside -- but is not identical to -- gay camp, represents oppositional modes of performance and reception, . . . a female form of aestheticism, related to female masquerade and rooted in burlesque, that articulates and subverts the 'image- and culture-making processes' to which women have traditionally been given access." (9) In claiming camp for feminism, Robertson maps the historical and theoretical possibilities for women's access to a sensibility generally considered the domain of gay male culture, and constructs a new female speaking subject of a politically inspired "camp effect." Her theoretical project explores a notion of gender parody beyond Mary Anne Doane's and Judith Butler's work on the masquerade; Robertson advocates a more complicated model of the pleasure at stake in female spectatorship, delineating a subtler negotiation of the notion of pleasure (and its contradictions) between the either/or (dominant texts/resistant viewers) models of subjectivity in theories of mass culture, particularly female spectatorship. In addition to her insightful analyses of stars, films, and the scholarly discourse around each, Robertson complicates our understanding of identity politics (in addition to the notion of pleasure) and accounts for the presence of the empirical woman in the audience, ever the thorn in the side of feminist film theories of spectatorship. Methodologically, she emphasizes the "historical conditions of reception" as opposed to "strict ethnographic audience surveys" (21). This approach, combined with her ability to link practices of everyday life (e. g., the fag hag and the contemporary mainstream media gay neighbor/enabler, as well as the relatively unexplored areas of male spectatorial pleasure in the woman's film and female spectators' attraction to the musical) with more abstract questions and tensions between gay and feminist theory, high and low culture, allows her to articulate the force of a dominant ideology operating on a number of levels. From the outset, Robertson warns against relinquishing the political use-value of camp to the Jamesonian postmodern moment: "But if we understand camp to have been always already mere 'blank parody,' we simply dehistoricize and 'postmodernize' camp's parodic and critical impulse" (5). Charging Jameson with his own version of "depthless ahistorical nostalgia" (4), Robertson embarks on an historical project that takes its reader into three "high camp epochs" (18): the 1930s, 1950s and the 1980s, each following significant developments in women's history. Mae West, Joan Crawford, and Madonna are Robertson's star texts, each with her own historically rooted feminist "camp effects" (21). Combining the tradition of female burlesque with gay male camp, Mae West practiced a specifically female aesthetic, Robertson argues, upon which her "female female impersonations" were based. The discussion of West, and her appeal to working-class women in particular, is coupled with a close reading of Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) to build an historical argument about the relationship between images of women and the women in the audience in the 1930s. The chapter brings together scholarship on the film musical and a detailed look at the Busby Berkeley aesthetic with contemporary discourse around prostitution and the figure of the gold digger in an analysis of the relationship between the film's narrative trajectory and the musical numbers. By Robertson's chapter on the...
    Modernism/modernity 01/1998; 5(2):181-183.

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