Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms

Cover Image, Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
Cover photo: Taylor Fickes

Rock and Romanticism: scholarship with a soundtrack. Yes, I have two anthologies with the main title Rock and Romanticism. The first was published early February 2018 by Lexington Books, and was focused on Blake and Wordsworth and, very generally, the genre of classic rock.

This second book is Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming late May 2018) and is focused just where the title implies: on the gothic or “dark Romanticism” as it is sometimes called and on its musical counterparts in rock. The first book states a thesis about the relationship between rock and roll and Romanticism. This book restates that thesis and then extends it to different genres of music and literature.

This page provides chapter descriptions and a lot more. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too: those interested in one really need to get both. If you’re drawn to this project, please consider requesting that your libraries order it. A more formal description of the project follows.

Because I’ve recently published two edited anthologies with the same top title, I’ve created this video explaining the origin of these books and the differences between the two:

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The edited anthology Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) is now available for preorder on the publisher’s website and will ship in late May 2018. I’m providing information here for potential readers, reviewers, and college and university librarians who may be interested in this book. If you wish to review this anthology for your publication, please contact James Rovira at jamesrovira@gmail.com with your name, credentials, and the name of the publication for which you wish to review this work.

But I’d like to provide a bit of personal history before I get into details about the book: my introduction to English Romanticism (my first way in to the vast labyrinth that is “Romanticism”) occurred in two stages. First, through the song “William Blake” on the Daniel Amos album Vox Humana (1984). That song made me run to the local B. Dalton Booksellers (remember those?) to pick up a copy of The Viking Portable William Blake.

I read it through the first time, cover to cover, in a befuddled haze, but I loved it. Daniel Amos, “William Blake,” Vox Humana:

Next, when my undergraduate English Romantics professor at Rollins College, Dr. Roy Starling, wanted to explain to his students what the publication of Lyrical Ballads meant to the 1790s, he compared it to this moment in rock history, the moment when Bob Dylan the folk singer plugged in and went electric:

And that was how I first understood Romanticism as a literary phenomenon. Thank you, Dr. Starling. In both cases, my way in to Romanticism was rock music from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms explores the relationships among the musical genres of post-punk, goth, and metal and seventeenth- to nineteenth-century American and European Romanticisms in their literary, artistic, and musical expressions. It argues that these contemporary forms of music are not only influenced by but are an expression of Romanticism continuous with their seventeenth- through nineteenth-century influences. Figures such as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Friedrich, Schlegel, Beethoven, and Hoffman are brought alongside the musical and visual aesthetics of the Rolling Stones, the New Romantics, the Pretenders, Joy Division, Nick Cave, Tom Verlaine, emo, Eminem, My Dying Bride, and Norwegian black metal to explore the ways that Romanticism continues into the present in its many varying forms and expressions. Book details:

Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms ~ James Rovira, ed. ~ Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-72687-8 ~eBook ISBN 978-3-319-72688-5 ~ DOI10.1007/978-3-319-72688-5 ~ pp. 330 ~ hardcover: $109.00 (£80.00); ebook: $84.99 (£63.99). This collection is part of the series Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature, P. Lumsden and M. Katz Montiel, editors.

Chapters are listed below. Many and profuse thanks M. Katz Montiel for being a great series editor (he made every chapter better), to Palgrave Macmillan’s editorial team, and to Dr. Mark McCutcheon (see the Nick Cave chapter description) for his work assembling these playlists. After the Preface and Introduction, songs are arranged in the order in which they appear in the chapter.

I’ve created iTunes playlists for each chapter that are linked within chapter descriptions. Also check out the iTunes Master Playlist for this anthology that combines all available songs (over 200) and the Spotify Master Playlist.

Preface and Introduction: “Theorizing Rock/Historicizing Romanticism” James Rovira. Check out his iTunes profile.

  1. “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” (pp. 27-44) by Evan LaBuzetta, Ph.D., Cambridge University. Independent scholar, founder of Writling Language Consultants.
    • Chapter summary
      • Evan LaBuzetta’s “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” analyzes the political discourse and outlines the discursive practices that influenced John Milton in his development of the character of Satan in Paradise Lost. Milton’s Satan was reinterpreted by the Romantics and later appropriated by Mick Jagger in “Sympathy for the Devil.” According to LaBuzetta, the rise of personal interpretation of Scripture in an era of vicious conflict led various combatants in the English Civil Wars to identify their domestic opponents with Satan. In pamphlets, writers could insist on their opponents’ Satanic origins regardless of outward appearance—because Satan can transform himself into an “angel of light”—while at the same time positing their own demonization as a sign of the righteousness of their cause. Through the English Civil Wars, rebellion against civil authority came to be seen as different than rebellion against God, establishing a “paradox of individual authority” by the time of Milton’s writing. Once God is dethroned as a “self-justifying principle,” a writer like Shelley could thrill to the active, virile, self-confident aspects of Satan’s character and declare that Milton’s Satan is far preferable to Milton’s God. Milton anthropomorphized Satan, and later readers came to see him in personal, non-religious terms: as a heroic individual striving against a tyrannical, self-imposing force, one with whom readers or rock fans could empathize.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  2. “‘Bliss was it in that shirt to be alive’: Connecting Romanticism and New Romanticism Through Dress” (pp. 45-59) by Emily Bernhard Jackson, Lecturer, University of Exeter.
    • Chapter summary
      • Skipping ahead about ten years after the Stones expressed sympathy for the devil, Emily Bernhard-Jackson’s “The Semiotics of the Ruffled Shirt: Connecting Romanticism and New Romanticism” shifts focus from linguistic content to visual surfaces in her comparison of the New Romantics of the early 1980s to English Romantics such as Byron. Rejecting the assumption that the New Romantics were glib and apolitical, she asserts their carefully managed, glittering surfaces were acts of subversion within Thatcher’s England, and these rock stars’ androgyny and even specific fashion choices—such as the ruffled shirt—carefully and not just coincidentally parallel second generation English Romantics such as Byron. Fluidity of sexual identity served the purpose of resisting full industrialization during 1980s’ England in a way parallel to the poets’ resistance of incipient industrialism in Romantic England, making dandyism and glitter statements against the brutal grayness of the working-class employment described by Löwy and Sayre, a very observable “mechanized conquest of the environment” under industrialization.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  3. “‘Crying Like a Woman ‘Cause I’m Mad Like a Man’: Chrissie Hynde, Gender, and Romantic Irony” (pp. 61-82) by Sherry R. Truffin, Associate Professor of English, Campbell University.
  4. “A Northern ‘Ode on Melancholy’?—The Music of Joy Division” (pp. 83-100) by Caroline Langhorst, Ph.D Candidate, University of Mainz.
  5. “‘Little crimeworn histories’: Nick Cave and the Roots-Raves-Rehab Story of Rock Stardom” (pp. 101-120) by Mark McCutcheon, Professor of Literary Studies, Athabasca University. Check out his blog.
  6. “Postcards from Waterloo: Tom Verlaine’s Historical Constellations” (pp. 121-143) by Len von Morzé, Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  7. “Manner, Mood, and Message: Bowie, Morrissey, and the Complex Legacy of Frankenstein” (pp. 145-161) by Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Associate Dean of the School of Human Sciences and Humanities and Professor of Literature, University of Houston, Clear Lake.
    • Chapter summary
      • Samuel Gladden shifts focus to monstrosity in “Manner, Mood, and Message: Bowie, Morrissey, and the Complex Legacy of Frankenstein.” He compares Bowie’s and Morrissey’s appropriations of the figure of Frankenstein’s Creature to explore their differing responses to isolation and loneliness. In Gladden’s account, Bowie focuses on the discardedness of the Creature as he adopts and discards personae just as Frankenstein abandoned his Creature. Bowie ultimately gathers up many of his previous personae in the song and video “Blackstar,” particularly his first personae, Major Tom, who allows Bowie to revisit the trope of being in an alien environment in anticipation of his own impending death. Morrissey, on the other hand, focuses his attention on the Frankensteinian themes of hybridity or bricolage in “November Spawned a Monster,” emphasizing that Morrissey adopted as his own the hybridity or bricolage associated with the Creature through a variety of personae with disabilities, all of them set within an “idealized past.” The disfigurements of the subject described by Löwy and Sayre, therefore, assume material form in Morrissey’s various personae.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  8. “Tales of the Female Lover: the Poetics of Desire in To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire?” (pp. 163-181) by Catherine Girodet, Ph.D. candidate Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier, and faculty, English Department, Universitie De Creteil.
  9. Emocosms: Mind-Forg’d Realities in Emo(tional) Rock Music” (pp. 183-197) by Eike Träger, Ph.D. candidate, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.
  10. “‘I possess your soul, your mind, your heart, and your body’: External and Internal Gothic Hauntings in Eminem’s Relapse” (pp. 199-213) by Christopher Stampone, Ph.D., Southern Methodist University.
  11. “‘The Female Is Such Exquisite Hell’: The Romantic Agony of My Dying Bride” (pp. 215-233) by Matthew J. Heilman, Ph.D., Duquesne University.
  12. “Ashes Against the Grain: Black Metal and the Grim Rebirth of Romanticism” (pp. 235-257) by Julian Knox, Assistant Professor of English, Georgia College.

Bibliography (pp. 259-278)
Discography (pp. 279-284)
Index (pp. 285-302)

Cover photo: Taylor Fickes.

Errata: if you see any errors on this page or in the book, please email James Rovira.

Romanticism and Rock

Updated June 7th with additional links, a bibliography, and an expanded contributor list. 

If you’re interested in the topic of this post, please consider submitting a proposal to the edited anthology Rock and Romanticism.

I’m thinking about developing a course about Rock and Roll and Romanticism for the Spring 2016 semester, so I asked my colleagues on the NASSR list for music recommendations that pair well with Romantic-era poetry and prose. They responded generously with numerous suggestions both for pairings between rock and roll and Romantic texts and for the course in general. I’ve posted a list below.

Why rock and roll and Romanticism? “Romanticism” as a literary movement has traditionally been defined both thematically and as a period, with periodization usually taking priority. As a periodized trans-European phenomenon, Romanticism usually starts with either Rousseau’s writings of the 1760s-1780s, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, or the fall of the Bastille in 1789, and it lasts until about 1850, at least in England. By this date Wordsworth, Mary Shelly, and most other first and second-generation Romantic poets had died.

Thematically, Romantic literature tends to focus on the individual over and above the state or other economic or political structures, on democracy over and above monarchy or the aristocracy, on nature over and above the urban, and on imagination and passion over and above reason and traditional moral structures. Many of us who think today that our deepest feelings represent somehow our essential selves have the Romantics to thank.

Because Romanticism is a trans-European and trans-chronological phenomenon, it is very difficult to define precisely. Scholars have been wrestling with the question “What is Romanticism?” for as long as Romanticism as been defined as a literary movement, but especially since A.O. Lovejoy’s early twentieth-century essay, “On the Discrimination of Romanticisms.” In it, he claims that the term “Romanticism” has come to mean so many different things that it has ceased to serve the function of a verbal sign.

For the sake of my course, and perhaps to the annoyance of some of my favorite Romanticists, I will probably theorize Romanticism using Sayre and Löwy’s Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity (2001). In this book, the authors develop a taxonomy of different Romanticisms (their solution to the problem Lovejoy posed) while presenting a unified definition of Romanticism as a response to capitalism.

So theorized, Romanticism then exists as a literary mode independent of any period. I am tempted to define English Romanticism as starting with Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). If this starting point doesn’t make sense to you, try comparing the moral reasoning of its titular character to the presentation of Blake’s Jesus at the end of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, who acted from impulse rather than rules. In this approach to Romanticism, the 1950s and certainly the 1960s are the most recent resurgence of Romanticism as a mode, one that continues into the present. If you were to reread my thematic description of literary Romanticism above, it’s not hard to read it as a simultaneous description of the major themes in a great deal of rock music. And as you’ll see from the list below, many artists from the 1960s forward drew inspiration from major figures in English Romanticism.

We need to be careful when talking about either literary modes or periods, however: it’s a mistake to think that even if we could define Romanticism as starting in 1789 and ending in 1850 that all literature and art during this period is therefore Romantic. Even periodization does not eliminate the need for attention to theme. Earlier generations of Romantic-era scholars tended to define Romanticism in opposition to Classicism, which at least allowed for two different modes of literature to co-exist within the same period (even if they tended to periodize Classicism earlier in the eighteenth century). We should do the same, at the least seeing Romanticism as a mode arising within a specific historical and social context and then continuing into the present, co-existing alongside other disursive modes arising before and after it and continuing alongside it into the present.

A provisional list is below, which as you see very broadly defines both Romanticism and rock and roll. Please email me with further suggestions at jamesrovira at gmail dot com, and I will add your suggestions to the list and credit you below. Many thanks to all who contributed.

If you’re interested in more on William Blake in popular culture, check out the online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit on this site.

William Blake, general responses

Note: Donald Fitch’s Blake Set to Music provides a comprehensive list up to 1989.

Zoamorphosis is an excellent source of material on Blake and popular culture.

William Blake, An Island in the Moon Live performance, stage adaptation by Joe Viscomi
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Ulver, Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
William Blake, Milton a Poem, “And did those feet…” Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Chile
Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Jerusalem
William Blake, Poetical Sketches The Fugs, “How Sweet I Roamed
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience Anda al Sinaia, Songs of Innocence and Experience, “The Clod and the Pebble
Daniel Amos, “Instruction Thru Film” (“The Chimney Sweeper,” Innocence)
Daniel Amos, “Sleep Silent Child
David Axelrod, Song of Innocence
David Axelrod, Songs of Experience
William Bolcom, Songs of Innocence and Experience (2.5 hr. orchestral performance of all of the Songs from the 1950s, highly diverse musically)
The Fugs, “Ah! Sunflower
The Man on the Margin (Italian band), “Songs of Innocence and Experience”
Van Morrison, “Let the Slave
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, “The Clod and the Pebble
Terry Scott Taylor, Knowledge and Innocence
U2, Songs of Innocence and Beautiful Ghost/Introduction to the Songs of Experience
Van Morrison, “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River
Victor Vertunni, “Little Boy Lost” (Part of his Songs of Innocence and Experience Project)
Walter Zimmerman, Songs of Innocence & Experience (1949 string quartet, not remotely rock and roll)
See Martha Redbone above for several individual songs.
Robert Burns, general responses Hugh Morrison, Robert Burns Rocks
Robert Burns, “My Heart’s in the Highlands” Bob Dylan, “Highlands
George Gordon, Lord Byron David Bowie, “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean
George Gordon, Lord Byron, “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving” Leonard Cohen, “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights
Michael Penn, “No Myth
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Iron Maiden, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Ian McKellen reading “Rime
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kubla Khan” Rush, “Xanadu
Olivia Newton-John and ELO, “Xanadu
John Keats, “Lamia” Genesis, “The Lamia
John Keats, “Ode on Melancholy” Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds feat. Kylie Minogue, “Where the Wild Roses Grow
Jack Kerouac, On the Road The Waterboys, Modern Blues, especially “Long, Strange, Golden Road
Edgar Allan Poe, Miscellaneous Poems Jeff Buckley, “Ulalume
Marianne Faithfull, “Annabel Lee
Iggy Pop, “Tell Tale Heart
Lou Reed, The Raven
Christopher Walken, “The Raven
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein Edgar Winter, “Frankenstein” (maybe more a reference to James Whales’s film?)
Grateful Dead, “Ramble on Rose
New York Dolls, “Frankenstein
Percy Shelley, “Adonais” The Cure, “Adonais
Mick Jagger reading “Adonais
Vincent Price reading “Adonais” (Yes, Vincent Price is rock and roll — links appreciated if available)
Percy Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy Scritti Polliti, “Lions After Slumber
Percy Shelley, “Ozymandias” Glass Hammer, “Ozymandias
Walter White/Heisenberg reading “Ozymandias” (he’s officially rock and roll now too)
Vincent Price reading “Ozymandias
Percy Shelley, “To a Skylark” The Cure, liner notes to Disintegration
William Wordsworth, general responses Joy Division, “Heart and Soul
Van Morrison, “Summertime in England” (with references to Coleridge, Yeats, and T.S. Eliot)
William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up” Anton Corbjin, Control, reading of Wordsworth’s poem by Ian Curtis of Joy Division
William Butler Yeats, general responses The Waterboys, An Appointment with Mr. Yeats, September 1913” and others
William Butler Yeats, “The Stolen Child” The Waterboys, “The Stolen Child
References to Byron, Shelley, and Keats Natasha Bedingfield, “These Words
References to John Keats, William Butler Yeats, and Oscar Wilde The Smiths, “Cemetry Gates
“Romantic in tone, mood, or spirit” The Clash
John Denver
The Dropkick Murphys
Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited. See D.A. Pennebaker’s film Don’t Look Back
Echo and the Bunnymen
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Flogging Molly
Genesis, Foxtrot
King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King, In the Wake of Poseidon
The Kinks, Arthur
Led Zeppelin
The Moody Blues, On the Threshold of a Dream and A Question of Balance
Ritchie Blackmore’s Night
Pink Floyd, The Wall: FilmFull Album, Soundtrack, Live 
The Pogues, “Lorelei
Simon and Garfunkel
The Tragically Hip, “Poets
The Waterboys, A Pagan Place, “A Church Not Made with Hands
The Who, Tommy, QuadropheniaWho’s Next 
The “New Romanticism” of the 1980s Spandau Ballet

Partial Bibliography

General

Dettmar, Kevin. Is Rock Dead?  

Dettmar, Kevin. Think Rock

Dettmar, Kevin and Willem Richey. Reading Rock and Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation, Aesthetics. 1999.

Doughty, Howard. “Rock: A Nascent Protean Form.” Popular Music and Society 2.2 (1973).

Eisen, Jonathan. The Age of Rock: Sounds of the American Cultural Revolution (Random House) and The Age of Rock 2: Sights and Sounds of the American Cultural Revolution (Vintage Books).

Lewis, George H. Side Saddle on the Golden Calf: Social Structure and Popular Culture in America (Goodyear Pub. Co.).

Maddocks, Melvin. “The New Cult of Madness.” Time Magazine (March 13, 1972).

Marshall, Lee. “Metallica and Morality: The Rhetorical Battleground of the Napster Wars.” ESLJ 1.1 (2004).

Passmore, John. “Paradise Now: The Logic of the New Mysticism.” Encounter (November 1970). CIA funded source.

Prendergast, Mark. The Ambient Century – from Mahler to Moby, the Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age (Bloomsbury, 2003)

Reynolds, Simon. “Ecstasy is a Science: Techno-Romanticism.” Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth. Ed. Karen Kelly and Evelyn McDonnell. New York: New York UP, 1999. 199-205.

Ross, Alex. The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

Weinstein, Deena. “Art Versus Commerce: Deconstructing a (Useful) Romantic Illusion.” Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth. Ed. Karen Kelly and Evelyn McDonnell. New York: New York UP, 1999. 57-69.

William Blake

Clark, Steve, Tristanne Connolly, and Jason Whittaker. Blake 2.0: William Blake in 20th-Century Art, Music, and CulturePalgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Nick Cave

Barfield, Steven, ‘ “The Time of Our Great Undoing”: Love, Madness, Catastrophe and the Secret Afterlife of Romanticism in Nick Cave’s Love Songs’, in John..H..Baker (ed.) The Art of Nick Cave: New Critical Essays (Bristol, UK. Intellect Book, 2012) 239-260.

Welberry, Karen. “Nick Cave and the Australian Language of Laughter.” Cultural Seeds: Essays on the Work of Nick Cave. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. 47-64.

The Doors/Jim Morrison

Paunovic, Zoran. Istorija, fikcija, mit (Geopoetika, Beograd 2006). In Serbian. Essay on Blake and Morrison.

Bob Dylan

Corcoran, Neil. Do You, Mr. Jones? Bob Dylan with the Poets and ProfessorsChatto.
Dettmar, Kevin ed. The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan
Dylan, Bob. Chronicles. 2 volumes. Simon and Schuster.
Ricks, Christopher. Dylan’s Visions of Sin. Harper Perennial.

Mary Shelley

McCutcheon, Mark A. Techno, Frankenstein, and CopyrightPopular Music 26.2 (2007): 259-280.

Contributors
Hearty thanks to the following contributors to the list of works above, in alphabetical order:

Rick Albright
Ian Balfour
Suzanne Barnett
Rick Brenner
William Christopher Brown
Adriana Craciun
Kellie Donovan-Condran
Howard Doughty
John-Erik
Michael Falk
Neil Finlayson
Peter Francev
Sandy Gourlay
Gregory, Stephen
Arden Hegele
Joseph M. Johnson
Aaron Kaiserman
Rob Kilgore
C. Kimberly
Silvia Lombardini
Mark McCutcheon
Theresa McMillan
Terry Meyers
Richard Nanian
Aaron J. Ottinger
James Rovira
David Ruderman
Teresa Romero Sánchez-Herrero
Philip Shaw
Pamela Siska
Eugene Stelzig
Zinaida Taran
Chip Tucker
Ana Vukmanović
Sydney Waimsley
Julie Watt
Paul Yoder

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