WHY CAMP IS QUEER.BY STEVEN BENSON

A. EXAMPLES OF CAMP IN HUYSMANS

I am reading Huysmans’ “Against Nature”(translated Baldick,1959).I would like to tease out, via this text, the links between camp and queer(in all its senses-see these postshttps://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/queerin-its-sense-of-not-solely-relating-to-sexual-orientationin-literature-a-creative-explorationclarification-of-what-it-means-to-me-by-steven-benson/ and

https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/queer-part-2-queer-in-its-sexual-orientation-and-gender-senseincluding-my-personal-involvementon-a-local-levelin-the-fight-for-lgbt-equality-by-steven-benson/ )

There is obviously also a historical trajectory which needs exploring.

The protagonist-if you can thus call him, because, in conventional senses, he is mainly physially inactive-of this prose fiction(I hesitate to cause it a novel; more a prose fiction a la sensations)is Des Esseintes, a mixture of the ascetic and aesthete(hedonist/decadent variety), the precursor, indeed, to characters in Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray”.

The varities of camp the fiction encompasses include:

1.Over-the-top, protracted imagery, and generally language of display and showiness, often in fairly periphrastic sentences(a particuarly wonderful and startling and extended camp example is the comparsion between a woman and a steam engine{sic!}on p.37{to be explored further!})

2. Within this same image,the type of camp which plays with(ie performatively-we begin to clearly see the links with queer writing) the gender of the person to whom the steam engine is compared.So what is initially set out as a paean to women’s beauty is described in terms of “muscles of steel” and “sends the sweat pouring down her{sic!} steaming flanks”; so there is, at the very least, a slippage between genders; if not a downright playing with them, and, of course, with the censors(though Huysmans is quite often not too worried about them in other passages!). Compare Mozart’s women dressed as men, cf drag kings(queer).

3.There is a whole chapter(3) on the seeming but possibly only putative duality between the ascetic and the aesthetic(hedonist). ALL of the chapter is taken up with reviewing Latin texts upto the 10th century AD, from within which Des Esseintes teases out a blend of vulgarity, quirkiness and monkish,even Stylitean rareification; at first glance oxymoronically(or is it? can we not just experience the ascetic and sensual simultaneously?){pp.40-52}

4. “ostentatious ODDITY”{my capitals}, p.26y; for example, the way in which Des Esseintes furnishes his new home, “to advertise his individuality” .

These are just a few examples, all within the first 50 pages!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

B.LINKS BETWEEN CAMP AND QUEER

So, extrapolating now from the Huysmans text,if we recall queer in its wider sense(my first post, linked to above)-but INCLUDING the narrower gender and sexual orientation non-binary sense-we see:

1. (camp) display and artifice-becomes (queer) “to advertise his individuality”, “oddity”;thus (queer) quirkiness/other/difference/subjectivity. A strong sense of self (as other) to stand against a hegemonic, conformist, consumerist, heteronormativising bastion.There is a trajectory there.

2. gender ambiguity in the steam engine image(camp) becomes genderqueer/androgyny/asexual/straightqueer/fluidity of gender and sexual orientation(queer){see this post for further exploration of psychological androgynyhttps://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/psychological-androgynybeyond-and-including-queer/ }

3. The atemporality and aspatiality  of Des Esseintes’ home and its furnishings(camp) becomes the similar outside/alongside/beyond time of Eliot’s (and developed by queer thinking’s) Rose Garden; Habelstams “A Queer time and Space”: that is, a safe space for lgbtq people to be themselves, outside or alongside heteronormative oppression, marginalisation, invisibilsation and other subtle co-ercive and privileged practices and positions. My own examples of queer, re-claimed temporality would be the Edward Carpenter Community of gay men and, to a lesser extent, two lgbt groups a friend and I founded which meet in gay-frendly venues, thus creating our own safe(as is realistically possible) space and time,  a challenge and move towards lgbt/queer Utopia I am proud to have been part of and, in the case of the two latter groups,actually instigated!Currently, we are working on this safe(r) spaces issue, (in regard to ALL antihegemonic positionalities)and not excluding HEGEMONIC others( as long as  this need for safe(r)spaces for these “groupings” is recognized) in another project.I shall post on this one day!(it must be said that Des Esseintes’ OWN safe space is dangerously lonely and inward-looking, which is why it is all the more crucial to work strongly and unitedly towards a TOTALLY equal world for everyone; I can see it working in the above pockets).

(more thoughts on related subjects-to be continued!)

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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3 Responses to WHY CAMP IS QUEER.BY STEVEN BENSON

  1. decayetude says:

    Thanks, Joe; much appreciated:)How did you find my blog/the “camp is queer” post?Steve

  2. decayetude says:

    Thanks, also, “the girl”:)where did u find my blog post!?Steve

  3. thanks Gill and Mikula:)

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