Continuing the Conversation

Ula Lukszo Klein, Texas A&M International University, and Emily Kugler, Howard University

marie-antoinette-shipIn Susan Sontag’s now-classic essay, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” Sontag argues for a critical dimension of the term “camp.” Camp, for Sontag, is “one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon.” For her, Camp emphasizes a blend of the silly and the extravagant, making the serious and the ridiculous equal to one another. She cites the beginnings of the Enlightenment period as an important moment for the establishment of this sensibility:

“The soundest starting point seems to be the late 17th and early 18th century, because of that period’s extraordinary feeling for artifice, for surface, for symmetry; its taste for the picturesque and the thrilling, its elegant conventions for representing instant feeling and the total present of character…the late 17th and early 18th century is the great period of Camp: Pope, Congreve, Walpole, etc., but not Swift; les précieux in France; the rococo churches of Munich; Pergolesi. Somewhat later: much of Mozart.”

macaroniAnd while many writers and thinkers since Sontag have criticized her arguments—about the disengaged, depoliticized or apolitical stance of Camp, for example—her essay began a conversation about this term as one that has the potential to re-focus and de-stabilize our critical understanding on a variety of topics. Camp has the powerful potential to suggest new readings and understandings of literature, art, culture, and historiography through its world-upside-down viewpoint.

Building off the 2016 American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies innovative workshop session “Eighteenth-Century Camp”  (scroll down for more details about the original session), we seek contributors for a special issue of Aphra Behn Online: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830 that explores the concept of “camp” with regards to eighteenth-century studies, broadly conceived. Papers may consider any aspect of eighteenth-century life and culture, using Sontag’s essay as a starting point, but drawing on other relevant discussions of Camp as a critical tool of inquiry.

We welcome papers on a broad range of topics, including, but not limited to, some of the following questions:

  • How do we define the concept of camp in the eighteenth century? Do we see it emerging in that era or is it contemporary lens which we apply to the past?
  • How might “camp” function as a useful framework or concept for thinking about eighteenth-century culture?
  • How does it shape our conceptions of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the eighteenth century and today?
  • How can it form connections between the studies of material culture, animal studies, religious history, and other axes of interpretation?
  • What eighteenth-century narratives and subjects have emerged as touchstones for the ways we discuss camp today?


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Please submit 750 word abstracts to the special issue editors, Emily MN Kugler,, and Ula Lukszo Klein,, no later than December 1st. Please also include the following in your submission:

  • a 100-word author bio
  • Proposed images or links (visual, sound, etc.)

We anticipate a Fall 2018 publication date.

For more on the 2016 ASECS sessions, see the menu or click here.