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Waiting for the Gift: Velvet Goldmine and the Bowie-Image

Neither David Bowie nor Romanticism are explicitly named in Todd Haynes’s 1998 film, Velvet Goldmine; but this essay takes on Haynes’s fictional account of the origins of “glam rock” to reflect on Bowie’s Romanticism and Romanticism’s Bowie. The essay approaches the topic using what Brian Eno called “oblique strategies” and what Walter Benjamin called “constellations”: Percy Shelley and Oscar Wilde, Benjamin and Bowie, Todd Haynes. At the center of this “constellation” is the “Bowie-Image,” an image of and about the Romantic image and what Shelley would call its “electric energies” or what might be called its “currencies” for Romanticism and for the “sounds and visions” of contemporary popular culture.

February 2022

“I Can’t Give Everything Away”: David Bowie and Post-Romantic Artistic Identity

The developments of the Romantic period set the stage for modern framings of art and the artist, establishing powerful institutionalized discourses that both created the privileged spaces in which art is presumed to operate and reified the special modes of authority that Romantic poetry and poets had claimed. However, these discourses have never been set in stone. Instead, subsequent practitioners have negotiated and renegotiated them in making their selves and works. While the rock stars of the sixties did so principally through amplification, David Bowie established a more skeptical relationship with Romantic notions of art and artistry. His mastery of mediated interaction allowed him to throw himself with gusto at the task of expanding the field of the represented and representable, but his works also consistently articulate meaningful doubts about the possibility of transcendent communication through art. Rather than claiming to reveal truths in the manner of high Romantic conceptions, his works place the power to make meanings in the hands and minds of his audiences, employing the potency of Romantic vision while knowingly undercutting its potential for totalizing imposition.

 

February 2022

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Bowie: David Bowie and Enlightenment Philosophies of Identity

This essay argues that David Bowie’s explorations of identity can meaningfully be linked to explorations of the same topic by Enlightenment philosophers. It analyses these connections in both Bowie’s work and his life and considers the ways in which that life and work extend the thinking of John Locke, David Hume, and George Berkeley to offer a new possible construction of identity, one that depends on the viewer rather than the viewed.

February 2022

“Will you stay”: “Kooks,” Hunky Dory, and Romantic Childhood

Poised at the start of the 1970s, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory now feels prophetic in its visions of a cynical “world to come” and the embittered generation who lived the long post-Woodstock comedown. This essay argues that the album mobilizes a discourse of idealized childhood that is one of Romanticism’s most enduring legacies, in order to enact a generational struggle that is both personal—the anxiety of the parent who fears creative displacement by their child—and public: the nostalgic and idealistic parent generation of the 1960s versus the bitter realism of their descendants. Tracing how “Kooks” replicates the image of the ‘Romantic child’ as articulated primarily in Wordsworth and Coleridge’s poetry, the essay situates the narrator’s reactionary impulse to keep the child a child forever against the album’s surrounding cast of angry, knowing teenagers. It argues that the Romantic child discourse—and the ways in which it still shapes, implicitly or otherwise, ideas about the relationships between parents and children, authors and texts, and reproduction and creative genius—enables the album to dramatize as a coherent text the ways in which those who inherited 1960s counterculture might, like Romanticism’s children in the 1820s and 1830s, resist calls to mythic, timeless unknowingness and instead turn to face painfully unfolding knowledge.

February 2022

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“I Am” a “Space Oddity”: Echolocating (New) Romanticism in David Bowie

This essay seeks to demonstrate how David Bowie’s (New) Romantic project engaged with spatial understandings that were first embedded in poetic practices in early-nineteenth-century Britain. Building on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s—fundamentally spatial—concept of the “I AM,” this essay suggests that spatial readings of Bowie’s “Major Tom” series can help us to echolocate innovative forms of (New) Romantic identities. More than this, it argues that reading Bowie’s tracks in light of Romantic concepts might assist in our ongoing project to engage with and respond to earlier works in ways that productively bring modern technological and spatial experiences to bear on historical literatures.

February 2022

Introduction: David Bowie and Romanticism’s Wild Mutations

This introduction lays out the predicates of David Bowie and the Legacies of Romanticism, exploring the diversity of Romantic inheritances and considering the ways in which David Bowie can be seen as engaging with them. It argues that while the Romantic period’s influence is less obvious than that of some other literary epochs, this is in large part because Romantic innovations changed so fundamentally the ways in which culture conceives of art and identity. Considering how Bowie engages with these changes allows us to see how Romanticism survives in a range of dynamic shaping forces, empowering later artists through providing both flexible tools to repurpose and overarching systems to reconfigure and oppose.

February 2022

Mary Shelley's The Last Man: Abridged Edition

February, 2022

"Throughout my teaching experiences, especially in seminars that have covered the life and works of the Shelleys, Lord Byron, and other writers of the age, reading The Last Man at the end has consistently provided a stimulating and memorable culmination. This is because these pages are filled with familiar material, even if one has not read the novel before. But asking my students to complete such extensive reading at the term’s conclusion invariably felt demanding and onerous. For pragmatic purposes, therefore, I decided to create the following abridgment, truncating the original narrative by more than a third of its length. It is my hope that, while offering greater exposure to this important novel in classes around the world, this free and open-access edition is used as originally intended: as a pathway toward—rather than a replacement for—the novel in its entirety."

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Beyond Slavery, Knowledge of Freedom: Bakary Diaby and Deanna Koretsky review Stolen Life and Beyond Slavery and Abolition

Fred Moten, Stolen Life (consent not to be a single being). (Duke UP, 2018). 336 pp.; (Paperback, 27.95; ISBN 978-0-8223-7058-1)

Ryan Hanley, Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, c. 1770-1830. (Cambridge UP, 2018). 282 pp; (Paperback, 31.99, ISBN: 9781108468756)

Bakary Diaby, Skidmore College

Deanna Koretsky, Spelman College

 

 

Hey Bakary!

 

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