David Bowie and the Legacies of Romanticism

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New Romantic Circles Praxis Series Volume

Edited by Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow)

While modern scholars often focus on examining Romantic-period works’ receptions around the times of their original publications, Romanticism is in many respects an event that continues to happen. Assumptions propagated by its major texts and authors strongly determine how we think and feel about a vast range of subjects, including nature, consciousness, art, and selfhood. This volume explores such patterns of influence by focusing on an artist who was shaped in part by inherited Romantic discourses, but who was also capable both of resisting them and of realizing new aspects of their potential. While sixties rock stars often presented themselves as unreconstructedly Romantic, David Bowie offered a series of self-aware alternatives to this model, challenging many of its underlying assumptions about masculinity, sexuality, genius, aesthetics, and performance. His oeuvre engages with common Romantic-period themes—including space, childhood, identity, artistry, and the liberating power of images—but it also pushes forward in manners that iterate on, improve, and sometimes reject Romantic conceptions. Through examining this multifaceted and self-consciously constructed artist and his works, these five essays by Joanna E. Taylor, Beatrice Turner, Emily Bernhard-Jackson, Matthew Sangster, and Forest Pyle explore how Romantic-period modes of making artworks and selves constitute a living tradition that artists draw upon and challenge in seeking to improve our ways of seeing, being, and understanding.


Introduction: David Bowie and Romanticism’s Wild Mutations – Matthew Sangster

“I Am” a “Space Oddity”: Echolocating (New) Romanticism in David Bowie – Joanna E. Taylor

“Will you stay”: “Kooks,” Hunky Dory, and Romantic Childhood – Beatrice Turner

What We Talk About When We Talk About Bowie: David Bowie and Enlightenment Philosophies of Identity – Emily A. Bernhard-Jackson

“I Can’t Give Everything Away”: David Bowie and Post-Romantic Artistic Identity – Matthew Sangster

Waiting for the Gift: Velvet Goldmine and the Bowie-Image – Forest Pyle