Call for Papers: The Diva

Digressions: Amsterdam Journal of Critical Theory, Cultural Analysis, and Creative Writing invites paper proposals, reviews, and creative writing for a special issue on The Diva.

Paper proposals

In her hyper-audibility, -visibility, and -artificiality, the Diva constitutes a privileged site for cultural analysis and critical theory. Numerous conflicting (identity) discourses intersect in this figure, including:

  • Gender. The Diva can be understood as a performance of excessive femininity which in its supposed arrogance shades into masculinity. Think in this respect of Margaret Thatcher’s entrée in Alan Hollinghurst’s novel The Line of Beauty (2004).
  • Sexuality. Traditionally, Diva fandom is associated with gay male sexuality, either in a sincere and/or a camp mode. To quote from Frank O’Hara’s 1964 “Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!)”: “I have been to lots of parties / and acted perfectly disgraceful / but I never actually collapsed / Oh Lana Turner we love you get up.”
  • Race. There exists a long history of white audiences adoring an African American Diva, from Josephine Baker to Beyoncé, as long as she is not too overtly political in her racial self-awareness. This idea was recently spoofed in the Saturday Night Live skit “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.”
  • Age. Is there a Diva expiration date? This is Diamanda Galas in defense of Madonna: “If watching a nearly 60-year old woman shake her ass in front of the entire world isn’t feminism, then I don’t know what is.”
  • Politics. In much of South America, Mercedes Sosa was seen as a Diva who spoke out against right-wing regimes. Lebanese singer Fairuz, the epitome of the Diva in the Middle-East and among much of the Arab-speaking diasporas, has taken “controversial” political stances as well. In the words of yet another political Diva, Nina Simone: “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
  • Commodification. The definition of Diva includes critical and commercial success, which she often achieves through commodifying herself (her voice, her body, her private life). Or as Beyoncé sings: “A diva is a female version of a hustler.”
  • Margins/mainstream. To what extent do “fringe” Divas such as Divine, Diamanda Galas, Lydia Lunch, Grimes, Klaus Nomi, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge complicate existing conceptions of the mainstream Diva? To cite Jack from Will & Grace to Cher: “I do a better Cher than you do.”
  • Everyday resistance. Perhaps Diva behavior can be used in everyday life to resist, negotiate, and/or make visible the gender script that labels female agency as “bitchiness,” for as Mae West explained: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

We invite papers on these and all other Diva-related matters. Abstract due on 10 April 2016, please submit by using the e-form on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.


We are looking for reviews of Diva-related cultural artifacts and performances (e.g. Beyoncé’s “Formation” video, Madonna’s Truth or Dare rockumentary, Charlie Hides’ impersonations of various Divas, et cetera) and academic publications. For the latter, think of:

  • Brown, Kimberly Nichele. Writing the Black Revolutionary Diva: Women’s Subjectivity and the Decolonizing Text. Minneapolis: Indiana UP, 2010.
  • Dyer, Richard. Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Societies. London: Macmillan Education, 1986.
  • Kerr, Rosalind. The Rise of the Diva on the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell’Arte Stage. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2015.
  • Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire. Boston: Da Capo P, 1993.
  • Kooijman, Jaap. “Triumphant Black Pop Divas on the Wide Screen: Lady Sings The Blues and Tina: What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Popular Music and Film. Ed. Ian Inglis. London: Wallflower P, 2003. 178-92.
  • Leonardi, Susan J., and Rebecca Pope. The Diva’s Mouth: Body, Voice, Prima Donna Politics. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996.
  • Nero, Charles I. “Diva Traffic and Male Bonding in Film: Teaching Opera, Learning Gender, Race, and Nation.” Camera Obscura2 (2004): 46-73.
  • Swinnen, Aagje, and John A. Stotesbury, eds. Aging, Performance, and Stardom: Doing Age on the Stage of Consumerist Culture. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012.

Indication of intention to write a review due on 10 April 2016, please send an email to the editor (email address listed on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.

Creative writing

Finally, we would like to publish creative writing (poems, short stories) about the figure of the Diva. Fictional fan letters, authentic biographical memoirs concerning your earliest engagement with a Diva, imagined dialogues between Divas – be as weird and fabulous as you dare to be.

Indication of intention to write a creative writing piece due on 10 April 2016, please send an email to the editor (email address listed on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.

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