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.
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 www.digressions.nl. 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 www.digressions.nl). First full draft due on 1 July 2016.
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 www.digressions.nl). First full draft due on 1 July 2016.