A famous blue dress with an A-shaped semen stain that really needs drycleaning

Literary Punk podcast episode #3 is launched!

For this episode featuring Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter I’m joined by Melbourne cultural critic and journalist Mel Campbell, author of Out of Shape – Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013).  We talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photos in the context of a couple of strange bedfellows: what Tara Moss has called “the axis of desire and contempt” (2014). We interrogate the famous semen stain on Monica Lewinsky’s little blue dress; and discuss Jackie Kennedy’s blood stained pink suit. And we talk about Hester Prynne’s self-identification in the shadows of the scarlet letter “A” as a literary emancipation, which can be read as a surprisingly radical model for modern subjects of shaming.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s peculiar Romance The Scarlet Letter (1850) stages Hester Prynne’s pillory in a chapter called ‘The Market Place’. Since Mistress Prynne’s public ordeal on the fictional 1650 Boston scaffold, America has been trading in private acts of desire. The Sex-God-State ménage à trois is an obsessional part of that society’s culture and currency – especially its ideological currency – right now and right back to as far as the mid 17th Century colony, when Hawthorne’s Puritan ancestors were Salem magistrates and witch hunters, men of the sword and the Bible. His great-great-great grandfather William’s New England notoriety was built on the relentlessly cruel persecution of a single Quaker woman. One wonders, what could she have possibly done to have inflamed His Majesty’s magistrate’s (des)ire so?

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Sex-God-State   [Image courtesy Hookturn]