Welcome to Camp!

Susan Sontag lays out for us fifty-eight notes on camp, attempting to conjure up the difficult to grasp and almost elusive concept of camp. In very broad terms, I see camp as the extreme dramatization (and often heightened irony) of a moment in order to highlight some aspect of that moment. It is particularly useful in situations dealing with a serious or complex situation. Angels in America,” a play dealing with a myriad of difficult topics such as the AIDs crisis and the struggle that members of the LGBTQ community faced in the 1990s, camp is heavily utilized. The first scene that I found to be clearly campy in the play was act one, scene seven, where Harper’s hallucination and Prior’s dream converge. This scene is particularly important because Harper and Prior are able to provide one another new insight into themselves that the characters they typically interact with have not been able to offer.

Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of camp is a sort of acknowledgment of the absurdity of the moment. We see this acknowledgement in the interactions between Harper and Prior, who both seem confused by the other’s presence in their personal imaginations. This scene is so infused with camp that we even see elements of it in the stage direction, where it is conceded that the fact that these two characters are meeting on this strange ethereal plane is in fact “bewildering” (36.) However, without this eccentric, absurd, and campy scene, these two characters would not have crossed paths. Infusing the play with these heightened, campy scenes allows for deeper revelations by the characters and interesting overlaps and relationships between characters whose plot lines would not necessarily cross otherwise. The element of camp in “Angels in America” both facilitates these moments of recognition and understanding, as well as highlights them for the audience as moments of particular importance.

3 thoughts on “Welcome to Camp!”

  1. I agree with your interpretation of the purpose of using campiness in texts such as “Angels in America.” I think camp can be used as a way to laugh at the pain/misfortune of a certain situation. As Sontag describes, to be campy about something requires a certain level of seriousness about the subject. The AIDs crisis is certainly such a subject. However, I think that, rather than camp requiring the acknowledgment of it’s extravagance, a defining feature of camp is the fact that the exaggerated becomes normalized; as with prior’s interactions with the angel, campy moments are ridiculous without being (at least by the characters themselves) recognized as such.

  2. I agree that the use of camp allows for deeper revelations for characters. I could see this in the Diorama scene in which Prior has a revelation about Louis’s relationship with Joe. The scene was very campy aesthetically, especially when Harper was speaking as the Diorama played. The seriousness of the play is balanced out by the campy scenes.

  3. I really like your interpretation of camp. I think you explained it very well and had very good examples to back it up. That scene in “Angels in America” stood out to me too. I think it represents the idea that camp is a new perspective on things. It also shows the exaggerated parts that come along with camp. You also pointed out the fact of how camp can bring groups of people together based off of certain characteristics.

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