CFP: Romanticism and Heavy Metal

CFP: Romanticism and Heavy Metal

The editors Julian Knox and James Rovira welcome chapter proposals for the forthcoming anthology Romanticism and Heavy Metal. Like the collections Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington 2018), Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan 2018), David Bowie and Romanticism (Palgrave Macmillan 2022), and Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism (Routledge 2022), Romanticism and Heavy Metal seeks to interpret heavy metal as a cultural, artistic, and musical phenomenon using the historical insights and theoretical tools provided by the study of Romanticism. 

As in previous collections, “Romanticism” is broadly conceived as a cultural, literary, artistic, philosophical, and musical movement first identified and named in the late eighteenth century without being limited in scope to that period. As a result, the relationship between metal and Romanticism should not be considered only in terms of influence: metal is or can be Romanticism in the present. “Heavy metal” is conceived as a late twentieth-century world musical phenomenon inclusive of a wide array of sub- and micro-genres that has its origins in the sonic and thematic innovations of 1960s and 70s bands such as Iron Butterfly, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and Metallica that continues into the present.

Chapters considering historically significant heavy metal bands that engage with Romantic works and themes are welcome, as are analyses of Romanticism in relation to metal subgenres including, but not limited to, doom metal, black metal, death metal, thrash, grindcore, folk metal, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, power metal, and noise.

Contributors seeking to define Romanticism outside of its usual eighteenth- to nineteenth-century periodization are encouraged, but not required, to consult Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity by Robert Sayre and Michael Löwy (2001). Chapter topics might include, but are not limited to, 

  • Romantic Satanism and heavy metal
  • Romantic paganism and heavy metal
  • Green Romanticism and heavy metal
  • Brown Romanticism and heavy metal
  • Individual author / painter / musician / band / album / music video comparisons
  • Nineteenth-century musical Romanticism and heavy metal
  • Romantic folk traditions and folk metal
  • Working class Romanticism and metal
  • Romantic celebrity and heavy metal 
  • Adaptations of Romantic texts in heavy metal albums
  • Romantic visual art as album art
  • Romanticism, metal, and political/social/environmental action
  • Reception studies and fan communities
  • Representations of apocalypse, post-apocalypse, and the world without us

Chapter proposals should be approximately 500 words in length, demonstrate familiarity with scholarship in both Romanticism and heavy metal, and should be accompanied by a one-page CV. 

Please email all proposal materials by February 2023 James Rovira at jamesrovira at gmail dot com

If you need flexibility with proposal or chapter deadlines, please describe your needs in an email. 

David Bowie and Drug Literature from the Eighteenth Century to the 1970s

[Aleister] Crowley does not figure on Bowie’s debut LP, but by the time of Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), he would be an influence directly on Bowie’s lyrics and continued to influence Bowie’s lyrics, ideas, and philosophies throughout the 1970s. Of particular interest to this chapter are Crowley’s experiments with drugs and his ideas about how drug use is related to creativity and religious experience, two ideas that Bowie also pursued in his work.

Eric Pellerin, David Bowie and Romanticism, pp. 69-70

Between 1970s’ drug culture and its ultimate origin, Romantic-era drug literature in the works of Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), lies Aleister Crowley’s (1875-1947) Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922), the seminal work of an author who became a central figure to many rock figures of the 1960s and 1970s, even appearing in the upper left corner of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Diary of a Drug Fiend is generally considered a roman à clef: a work of fiction based upon real people and actual events. Crowley, in my opinion, is generally misunderstood in some ways that he would find flattering and in other ways that he brought upon himself, and it’s not clear to me that the work needed to understand him would yield much in the way of real benefit. But he deserves the dignity of honesty about his legacy–while I’m not a Crowley scholar, and never will be, I will attempt to tell the truth about him as someone who is neither an adept in his religion nor hostile toward him as “the most evil man alive.”

Check out the iTunes playlist for David Bowie and Romanticism.

Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend follows the life of Sir Peter Pendragon, a minor English aristocrat who, early in the story, on a single night meets a woman whom he marries without knowing and takes cocaine for the first time. Their honeymoon consists of a drug-fueled romp across Europe that becomes part tragedy and part comedy of errors, as Pendragon’s judgment is badly impaired by drug use. They progress from cocaine to heroin, rapidly degenerating into a serious addiction that leads them to the point of suicide until rescued by Basil King Lamus, who had been their guide through drug use from the beginning and is a leader in the religion of Thelema. On the one hand, the narrative propagates the myth that even heroin use can be controlled to lead users to higher states of consciousness, but on the other hand, it is graphic, detailed, accurate, and unflinching in its depiction of the worst aspects of heroin addiction.

Thelema in this novel and its follow-up, Moonchild, is a syncretist religion that appears to me to use the Sefirot (Kabbalah’s Tree of Life) for its conceptual structure, the teachings of Christ for its moral consciousness, and then associates the insights of other religions and empirical science on different nodes of the Sefirot. Adherents of this religion practice “magick,” which because of Thelema’s study of nature is able to create real effects in the world (according to the religion). “Magick” is therefore not an occult practice as commonly understood but the proper understanding of the relationship between human beings and the natural world, the ultimate integration of empirical science, philosophy, psychology, and religion.

The fundamental principle of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt,” but it’s carefully distinguished from “Do as thou wilt,” the former being the practice of deliberate action moving toward carefully chosen goals while the latter is the practice of caprice or mood without regard for consequences. Thelema and the practice of magick by its own account should be distinguished from Satanism and the practice of black magic: while Crowley could write poems like “Hymn to Satan” in the very early twentieth century, probably working with a gnostic view of Satan, by the 1930s he would compare practicing black magic to a mouse trying to make a pact with a cat. Thelema, overall, is conceptually naive in that it makes identifications among objects based on superficial similarities alone, and it is dependent upon early twentieth-century science only partially understood by the author. However, in many ways, it’s not hard to see how so many rock stars from the 1960s and 1970s would be attracted to Crowley — Diary of a Drug Fiend at times reads like a user manual for a 70s’ rock star: the life of someone wealthy, aristocratic, young, and free.

Eric Pellerin in chapter 4 of David Bowie and Romanticism, “Drug Use and Drug Literature from the Eighteenth Century to David Bowie,” covers the ground described in his title, locating Bowie’s 1970s’ lifestyle and songwriting about drug use at the end of a lineage of drug literature that begins with Coleridge and De Quincey, moves through Baudelaire and Crowley, and then moves on to David Bowie with additional discussion of contemporaries such as Jimmy Page.

Read more in David Bowie and Romanticism: you can order the book from The Bookstore or ask your local, college, or university library to order it for you.

Eric Pellerin is Assistant Professor and the Electronic Resources & Serials Management Librarian at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. His research interests include genre theory, authorship in film, and Hong Kong cinema.

See the Virtual Book Launch for David Bowie and Romanticism

If you weren’t able to join us for the virtual book launch for David Bowie and Romanticism (Palgrave Macmillan 2022), you can watch the recording below. Held live on location at Savvy Vinyl Records on 28 Laurie St. in Melbourne, FL. Many thanks to Michelle and Martha for their generosity hosting the book launch.

Many thanks to contributors Eric Pellerin, William Levine, Samuel Gladden, Aglaia Venters, Paul Rowe, Jennifer Lodine-Chaffey, and Julian Knox for their time and contributions, and to guests Sherry Truffin and Alicia Daily for their contributions and insights.

Support a working author by purchasing the book on his website or feed the corporation machine.

Virtual Book Launch for David Bowie and Romanticism

Check out the book and, if you like it, order the book.

Please join us for a virtual book launch for David Bowie and Romanticism on Saturday, September 17th, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET via Zoom and Instagram Live Feed @rock.and.romanticism. Contributors will be discussing their chapters.

I’ll be on location at the Melbourne, FL record store Savvy Vinyl Records. It’s a small, independent, woman-owned and operated business. 

Note that FL recently voted for permanent Daylight Savings Time. 

12:00-12:15 Introduction to the book and welcome to the event. Virtual walk through of Savvy Vinyl Records. 
12:15-12:30 Eric Pellerin, “Drug Use and Drug Literature from the Eighteenth Century to David Bowie”
12:35-12:50 William Levine, “Capitalist Co-optation, Romantic Resistance, and Bowie’s Allegorical Performance in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth
12:55-1:10 Samuel Gladden, “‘Rebel Rebel’: Bowie as Romantic ‘Type’”
1:15-1:30 Aglaia Venters, “The Goblin King, Absurdity, and Nonbinary Thinking” 

1:35-1:50 Paul Rowe, “Relics of The Future: The Melancholic Romanticism of Bowie’s Berlin Triptych”
1:55-2:10 Jennifer Lodine-Chaffey, “’Blackstar’: David Bowie’s Twenty-First-Century Ars Moriendi
2:15-2:30 Julian Knox, “Too Late to Be Late Again: David Bowie, the Late 1970s, and Romanticism”
2:35-2:50 Julian and Jim talk about Romanticism and Heavy Metal
2:50-3:00 wrap up

If you’d like to join the Zoom session rather than watch on Instagram, please email me at jamesrovira (at) gmail (dot) com for the meeting ID and password. 

Read more about the book at https://jamesrovira.com/2022/09/02/david-bowie-and-romanticism/

David Bowie and Romanticism is now available for 20% off through October 17th. See The Bookstore for details.

Maybe There’s a Little Bit of Natural Religion?


  1. The human mind detects patterns in the natural world.
    The human mind is a part of and proceeds from the natural world.
    Therefore, patterns exist in the natural world.

  2. Patterns exist in the natural world.
    The human mind perceives patterns in the natural world.
    The human mind is part of and proceeds from the natural world.
    Therefore, the human mind is the natural world reflecting on its own patterns.

  3. Therefore, anthropomorphism is not a fallacy.

  4. A part is not equal to a whole.
    The whole cannot be reduced to a part.
    Therefore, the relationship between part and whole need not be mutually exhaustive.
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