Here’s the full iTunes playlist for Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism (Routledge 2022): click the image.
I’m pleased to announce the publication of Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism (Routledge, 2022), which is the first book-length work to explore the interrelationships among contemporary female musicians and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art, music, and literature by women and men. The music and videos of contemporary musicians including Erykah Badu, Beyoncé, The Carters, Missy Elliot, the Indigo Girls, Janet Jackson, Janis Joplin (and Big Brother and the Holding Company), Natalie Merchant, Joni Mitchell, Janelle Monáe, Alanis Morrisette, Siouxsie Sioux, Patti Smith, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), and Alice Walker are explored through the lenses of pastoral and Afropresentism, Hélène Cixous, Gothic, male and female Gothic, and the literature of William Blake, Beethoven, Arthur Schopenhauer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Dacre, Ralph Waldo Emerson, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Ann Radcliffe, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, Horace Walpole, Jane Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Wordsworth to explore how each sheds light on the other and how women have appropriated, responded to, and been inspired by the work of authors from previous centuries.
You can read more about the book here.
I will be hosting a virtual book launch this coming Saturday, November 19th from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET (we’re off Daylight Savings Time now, -5 UTC). The book launch will be held simultaneously on Zoom and on Instagram live streaming at the account rock.and.romanticism:
The lineup is as follows.
If you’d like to attend on Zoom, please email me privately for the session login. Feel free to promote the session on social media and elsewhere.
11:55-12:10 – Jim Rovira introducing the book and session.
12:10-12:30 – Alicia Carpenter on William Blake and Patti Smith
12:30-12:50 – Rebecca Nesvet on Jane Williams and the figure of the rolling stone
12:50-1:10 – Sasha Strelitz on Janis Joplin and “electric Romanticism.”
1:10-1:30 – Christopher Clason – on Joni Mitchell and German Romanticism
1:30-1:50 – Diana Edelman – on Siouxsie Sioux and the male/female Gothic
1:50-2:10 – Sherry Truffin on St. Vincent, the Gothic, and the grotesque
2:10-2:30 – Kristen Zemke on Romanticism and Afropresentism in Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, and Beyonce
2:30-2:50 – Sherry Truffin interviews Jim Rovira on Schopenhauer, music, and women in German Romanticism, and the extension of that topic to the study of British Romanticism and women in rock.
Each section will reserve five minutes at the end for questions.
On January 7, 2016, about a week before his death, David Bowie released his final music video, “Lazarus.” The similarities between Donne’s death shroud portrait and Bowie’s video are unmistakable as both highlight the artists’ engagements with mortality and creation of an artful death. In this song and video, and throughout his final album, ★, Bowie’s use of symbols associated with early modern death rituals as well as the communal aspects of his parting gift to fans reveal possibilities for rediscovering the art of dying for our modern age.Jennifer Lillian Lodine-Chaffey, David Bowie and Romanticism, p. 258
I have my own memories of the release of Bowie’s Lazarus video. I remembered I’d first caught it not long after its initial release, just hours. I remember thinking to myself, wryly but pleased, “He did it again. Weirded us all out.” Not just the visuals. The music too. I’d never heard anything quite like it. Then I checked the video again about 24 hours after it was released and was very, very pleased again: the video had received over 1 million views in a little more than 24 hours. It was a hit.
And then I heard he died, and then I watched the video again, seeing it differently this time. He knew. And then, before the next day had passed, I committed to this book. Bowie had been on my radar since my teenage years, and especially since I saw him perform live on Saturday Night Live in December 1979, when I was 15. But I didn’t buy many of his albums. I picked up his Singles Collection on CD within a couple years of its release in 1993 and loved it. Then I picked up another CD at a flea market, I think Reality, overpriced because it was “rare,” sometime after 2008. But then he died, and now I have all of his studio albums on vinyl and a nice stack of his CDs. And now I have this book, David Bowie and Romanticism.
What struck me the most about Bowie’s loss was the loss of his genius and humanity at the beginning of a year in which Trump’s star started to rise. It seemed so unfair–such a horrible tradeoff, like trading in a Ferrari for a brown Matchbox sedan. Plus it was the loss of David Bowie. The world lost some of its color that day; I knew it could come back, but I didn’t know when it would.
A colorless world. His final album, Blackstar, ★, packaged black on black. Even the inner booklet is matte black with gloss black lyrics and images printed on it. But when you hold the outer sleeve up to the light, you see stars through the Blackstar cutout. Constellations. There’s little joy on this album. There’s bitterness, confusion, anger, betrayal. Death. But he took all of that and turned it into art. He wants us to see the constellations through all of that darkness.
Bowie reinvented himself musically once again on this album. I write about his musical transformation in my chapter on Bowie and jazz in the forthcoming collection Jazz and Literature (Routledge 2023), but I believe as much is communicated through the album art, as sparse as it is, and through the videos, as is communicated through its music and lyrics. It begs for visual interpretation. Jennifer Lillian Lodine-Chaffey’s “‘Blackstar’: David Bowie’s Twenty-First-Century Ars Moriendi,” chapter 11 of David Bowie and Romanticism, the book’s final chapter, does this work of visual interpretation. She interprets Bowie’s album and videos in the light of the ars moriendi tradition, or the early modern practice of an artful death which “encouraged individuals to thoughtfully and artfully plan for and practice their deaths” (pp. 257-8). She traces the loss and then rediscovery of this tradition in the Romantic era, particularly “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Just as Keats’s urn preserves eternally the memory of a moment, Bowie’s “Lazarus” video “re-envisions his history through objects that tell of his demise, while simultaneously reminding the viewers of his past and pointing toward his future as an object of memory” (p. 269).
Check out the iTunes playlist for David Bowie and Romanticism.
Jennifer Lillian Lodine-Chaffey is Assistant Professor of English, Department of English, Philosophy, and Modern Languages, Montana State University. She is the author of A Weak Woman in a Strong Battle: Women and Public Execution in Early Modern England (2022).
Bowie’s space/alien lyrics express Keatsean negative capability in the often paradoxical–both egotistical and humble–visions of alternatives in anticipation of the deaths of self, the Anthropocene, humanity, and the Earth itself.Shawna Guenther, David Bowie and Romanticism, p. 53
David Bowie’s most enduring persona, even to the present, years after his death, is as the alien Ziggy Stardust on the 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie extended alien imagery to the cover his next album, Aladdin Sane (1973), performed as an alien in the 1976 film The Man Who Sold the World, and then continued the persona of Thomas Jerome Newton, his alien character from the film, on his album covers for Station to Station (1976) and Low (1977). He revived Newton’s character at the very end of his life with the stage play Lazarus (2015), which he was able to see in its New York City debut on December 7, 2015 just over a month before his death on January 10, 2016.
Shawna Guenther’s “Negative Capability in Space: The Romantic Bowieverse,” chapter 3 of David Bowie and Romanticism, discusses Bowie’s space imagery from 1969’s “Space Oddity” to the end of his career in the light of John Keats’s idea of “negative capability,” or in Keats’s words, “when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Guenther argues that in “creating his space/alien music, Bowie employs these aspects of negative capability not only to artistic benefit, but to engage culturally and socially with the rapidly changing world and several generations of listeners/readers” (p. 54).
I think of it in terms of being suspended: just as Major Tom was suspended between the earth and the stars, Bowie suspends a fixed identity or certain knowledge in his music to establish a vantage point from which he can comment on, as Guenther says, “the deaths of self, the Anthropocene, humanity, and the Earth itself” (p. 53). Read more in David Bowie and Romanticism, which you can pick up from The Bookstore for yourself or request that your local or college and university library order for its collection.
Shawna Guenther, credited with coining the term “Bowieverse,” is a Ph.D. candidate at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and has published a memoir, creative non-fiction, and scholarship in journals including Analyses/Rereadings/Theories and Beyond Philology.
I held a follow-up book talk about David Bowie and Romanticism on October 8th, 2022, at Savvy Vinyl Records in Melbourne, FL with the owner, Michelle Pessaro. We talked about David Bowie and Romantic androgyny, David Bowie and fascism, and Bowie’s ongoing cultural profile. Check it out below, and check out The Bookstore for a special deal on the book.