Camp (style) - Origins and Development

Origins and Development

Camp derives from the French slang term se camper, meaning "to pose in an exaggerated fashion". The OED gives 1909 as the first print citation of camp as

ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual; pertaining to, characteristic of, homosexuals. So as a noun, ‘camp’ behaviour, mannerisms, et cetera. (cf. quot. 1909); a man exhibiting such behaviour.

Per the Oxford English Dictionary, this sense is "etymologically obscure".

Later, it evolved into a general description of the aesthetic choices and behaviour of working-class homosexual men. Finally, it was made mainstream, and adjectivised, by Susan Sontag in her landmark essay (see below).

The rise of post-modernism made 'camp' a common perspective on aesthetics, which was not identified with any specific group. The attitude originally was a distinctive factor in pre-Stonewall gay male communities, where it was the dominant cultural pattern. It originated from the acceptance of gayness as effeminacy. Two key components of camp were originally feminine performances: swish and drag. With swish featuring extensive use of superlatives, and drag being exaggerated female impersonation, camp became extended to all things "over the top", including female female impersonators, as in the exaggerated Hollywood version of Carmen Miranda. It was this version of the concept that was adopted by literary and art critics and became a part of the conceptual array of 1960s culture. Moe Meyer still defines camp as "queer parody."

Read more about this topic:  Camp (style)

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