Week 7 (Sounds of Laughter)

Academic Conversation Skill: Relevance and Importance
Concept: Camp
Time Period: 1950s (Rock and Roll)

<<<Week 6     ^^^Main Page     Week 8>>>

sol banner

Relevance and Importance

Templates for establishing relevance/importance:

Indicating Who Cares:

  • Recent studies like these shed new light on _________________, which previous studies had not addressed.
  • These findings challenge X’s common assumptions that ____________. (adapted from Graff and Birkenstein 2006, 91)

Establishing Why Your Claim Matters

  • X matters/is important because ______________.
  • Although X may seem trivial, it is in face crucial in terms of today’s concern over ___________. (adapted from Graff and Birkenstein 2006, 94-5)


“Camp (style)” (Wikipedia): “Camp is an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing or humorous because of its ridiculousness to the viewer. Camp aesthetics disrupt many modernists’ notions of what art is and what can be classified as high art…” [it is also used to disrupt gender roles, notions of sexuality, etc.]

“Little Richard trampled on social expectations of masculinity and laughed at concepts of gendered decorum. With a six-inch pompadour, heavy mascara, baggy blouse, and billowing cape, Richard presented a shocking image of what we now recognize as “camp,” but at the time was just perceived as bizarre. For Richard, his look was a form of revenge, a type of trickster humor; it symbolically subsumed all of the abuse leveled at homosexual men [although many claim Richard was actually bisexual], then mocked such assaults by exaggerating the features ascribed to them.” (Ellis 2008, 33)

Performance Example (1950s/Rock)

This clip comes from the PBS/BBC documentary, “Rock & Roll” (1995) from “Episode 1: The Renegades.”  This clip effectively displays Richard’s energy and flamboyance as a performer, his roots in Afro-American religious music, and the ways he challenged conventions of gender and race during the 1950s.

See Also:

Little Richard on YouTube

Reading Questions

  • In what ways can “camp” be a tool for challenging conventions/stereotypes/etc.?
  • How might you modify this passage (which is more journalistic than academic) to include considerations of its relevance and/or importance?

Performance Questions

  • In what was does this clip show Richard challenging the status quo through his performance style?
  • In what ways has Richard’s style influenced subsequent musical and/or comedic performers?


Draft two sentences relating to the claim of your final project: one describing its relevance (i.e. who cares?) and the other describing its importance (i.e. why does it matter?). Post as a Word file. (Due the Friday after class @ 5pm PST)

Other Sources for Camp

Smith, P.J. 1993. “You don’t have to say you love me”: The camp masquerades of Dusty Springfield. In Camp grounds: Style and homosexuality, ed. David Bergman, 105-26. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Whiteley, Sheila, and Jennifer Rycenga. 2006. Queering the popular pitch. New York: Routledge.

Other 1950s/Rock and Roll Performers

YouTube Links

Jerry Lee Lewis

Lonnie Donegan

The Coasters

Blog Posts

[display-posts tag=”1950s” posts_per_page=”20″ include_date=”true” date_format=”F j, Y” order=”ASC” orderby=”title”]

<<<Week 6     ^^^Main Page     Week 8>>>

Leave a Reply