Queer As Camp: Essays on Summer, Style and Sexuality” edited by Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason— Looking at Camp

Kidd, Kenneth B. and Mason, Derritt, (editors). “Queer As Camp: Essays on Summer, Style and Sexuality”, Fordham University Press, 2019.

Looking at Camp

Amos Lassen

It is so good that camp is in vogue again. I remember it from times past but it somehow seemed to disappear for a while and went another name or title. Camp just cannot disappear forever—we need it.

Commonly, “to camp” means to occupy a place and/or time provisionally or under special circumstances. “To camp” can also mean to queer and for many children and young adults, summer camp is a formative experience mixed with homosocial structure and homoerotic longing. In “Queer as Camp”, editors Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason give us a collection of essays and critical memoirs exploring the intersections of “queer” and “camp,” focusing especially on camp as an alternative and potentially nonnormative place and/or time. We explore “questions of identity, desire, and social formation as we look at the diverse and queer-enabling dimensions of particular camp/sites, from traditional iterations of camp to camp-like ventures, literary and filmic texts about camp across a range of genres (fantasy, horror, realistic fiction, graphic novels), as well as the notorious appropriation of Indigenous life and the consequences of ‘playing Indian’.”

The essays here examine, variously, camp as a queer place and/or the experiences of queers at camp, including Vermont’s Indian Brook, a single-sex girls’ camp that has struggled with the inclusion of nonbinary and transgender campers and staff; the role of Jewish summer camp as a complicated site of sexuality, social bonding, and citizen-making as well as a potentially if not routinely queer-affirming place. They also attend to cinematic and literary representations of camp, such as the Eisner award-winning comic series “Lumberjanes”, a  revitalization  and revision of  the century-old Girl Scout story; Disney’s “Paul Bunyan”a short film that plays up male homosociality and cross-species bonding while inviting queer identification in the process; “Sleepaway Camp”, a horror film that exposes and deconstructs anxieties about the gendered body; and Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed “Moonrise Kingdom” and its evoking dreams of escape, transformation, and other ways of being in the world.

The essays are interdisciplinary in scope and reflect on camp and Camp with candor, insight, and often humor. Those included in the volume are Kyle Eveleth, D. Gilson, Charlie Hailey, Ana M. Jimenez-Moreno, Kathryn R. Kent, Mark Lipton, Kerry Mallan, Chris McGee, Roderick McGillis, Tammy Mielke, Alexis Mitchell, Flavia Musinsky, Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Annebella Pollen, Andrew J. Trevarrow, Paul Venzo and Joshua Whitehead. The essays are often very funny and damning at the same time. What I found here that I have never seen in. volume about camp before are the memories of summer camp that reframe nostalgia, and activates Camp sensibilities. Kidd, Mason, and their contributors bring together queer pedagogy, critical theory, and creative nonfiction to give us this fascinating study. Below is the Table of Contents:

Charlie Hailey | vii

Camping Out: An Introduction
Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason | 1

Notes Home from Camp, by Susan Sontag
Daniel Mallory Ortberg | 25

Part I Camp Sites

“The most curious” of all “queer societies”?
Sexuality and Gender in British Woodcraft Camps, 1916–2016
Annebella Pollen | 31

Queer Pedagogy at Indian Brook Camp
Flavia Musinsky | 51

“No Trespassing”: Girl Scout Camp and the Limits of the Counterpublic Sphere
Kathryn R. Kent | 65

Nation-Bonding: Sexuality and the State in the Jewish Summer Camp
Alexis Mitchell | 83

Notes on Church Camp
D. Gilson | 99

Queer at Camp: A Selected Assemblage of Resistance and Hope
Mark Lipton | 114

The Camping Ground “Down Under”: Queer Interpretations of the Australian Summer Holiday
Paul Venzo | 132

Part II Camp Stories

Camping with Walt Disney’s Paul Bunyan: An Essay Short
Tammy L. Mielke and Andrew Trevarrow | 149

Illegal Citizen: The Japanese-American Internment Camp
in Soon-Teck Oh’s Tondemonai—Never Happen!
Ana M. Jimenez-Moreno | 157

Why Angela Won’t Go Swimming: Sleepaway Camp,
Slasher Films, and Summer Camp Horrors
Chris Mcgee | 174

Striking Camp: Empowerment and Re-Presentation in Lumberjanes
Kyle Eveleth | 188

Escape to Moonrise Kingdom: Let’s Go Camping!
Kerry Mallan and Roderick Mcgillis | 211

“Finding We’Wha”: Indigenous Idylls in Queer Young Adult Literature
Joshua Whitehead | 223

Acknowledgments | 241

Works Cited | 243

List of Contributors | 263

Index | 267

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