Abstract

Camp has become a pertinent aesthetic concept for critics of contemporary poetry, and while Susan Sontag has traced camp in part to Gothic fiction in her seminal essay "Notes on 'Camp,'" the particular intersection between camp and Gothicism in American poetry has yet to be explored. Frank O'Hara and John Yau are two poets who fuse camp and horror together to forge recurrent, frivolous depictions of the living dead that parody Walt Whitman's belief in immortality and the Buddhist concept of samsāra, or rebirth. Despite the comic intent, though, the undead express both poets' central concerns about American society: O'Hara employs images of the living dead to critique nuclear armament in the Cold War era and to assuage — with campy playfulness — the torment he often feels about death, while Yau invokes campy horror movies to combat negative depictions of Asians as an alien contagion and reframe poetic influence as reincarnation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 92-113
Launched on MUSE
2010-04-08
Open Access
No
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