45. detachment is the prerogative of an elite; and as the dandy is the 19th century's surrogate for the aristocrat in matters of culture, so camp is the modern dandyism. camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture.

46. the dandy was overbred. his posture was disdain, or else ennui. he sought rare sensations, undefiled by mass appreciation. (models: ees Esseintes in huysmans' à rebours, marius the epicurean, valéry's monsieur teste.) he was dedicated to "good taste."

the connoisseur of camp has found more ingenious pleasures. not in latin poetry and rare wines and velvet jackets, but in the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in the arts of the masses. mere use does not defile the objects of his pleasure, since he learns to possess them in a rare way. camp -- dandyism in the age of mass culture -- makes no distinction between the unique object and the mass-produced object. camp taste transcends the nausea of the replica.

47. wilde himself is a transitional figure. the man who, when he first came to london, sported a velvet beret, lace shirts, velveteen knee-breeches and black silk stockings, could never depart too far in his life from the pleasures of the old-style dandy; this conservatism is reflected in the picture of dorian gray. but many of his attitudes suggest something more modern. it was wilde who formulated an important element of the camp sensibility -- the equivalence of all objects -- when he announced his intention of "living up" to his blue-and-white china, or declared that a doorknob could be as admirable as a painting. when he proclaimed the importance of the necktie, the boutonniere, the chair, wilde was anticipating the democratic esprit of camp.

48. the old-style dandy hated vulgarity. the new-style dandy, the lover of camp, appreciates vulgarity. where the dandy would be continually offended or bored, the connoisseur of camp is continually amused, delighted. the dandy held a perfumed handkerchief to his nostrils and was liable to swoon; the connoisseur of camp sniffs the stink and prides himself on his strong nerves.

49. it is a feat, of course. a feat goaded on, in the last analysis, by the threat of boredom. the relation between boredom and camp taste cannot be overestimated. camp taste is by its nature possible only in affluent societies, in societies or circles capable of experiencing the psychopathology of affluence.

susan sontag, notes on camp

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