Chapter

Flash Crib: A Genealogy of Modern Nightlife

Daniel Tiffany

in Infidel Poetics

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226803098
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226803111 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226803111.003.0007
Flash Crib: A Genealogy of Modern Nightlife

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This chapter explores how the tradition of English poetry harbors a kind of rude song—a fugitive lyric—written in the jargon of the demimonde, garbled and misplaced by design, which draws the reader into a historical underworld of taverns and nightclubs. The manifestos and rude songs of the ultraradical “tavern underworld” anticipated the convergence of avant-garde practice and modern nightlife in the early part of the twentieth century. Yet one could argue that poetic rhapsody has always been modern, in the sense that the rhapsodic measures are symptoms of modernity. As the praxis of nightlife became more deliberately politicized (as a laboratory for radical culture following the French Revolution) and more highly mediated (by its association with the underground press), the manifold obscurity of nightlife became increasingly susceptible to commodification—just like the fetishizing of cant, appealing to classes well beyond the subculture of the demimonde. The territory of nightlife thus yielded historically to rationalization and to sentimentality, as Schiller understood the category of the sentimental: an object, event, or place infused with verbal reflection—with reflections of itself—and with rational feeling. The chapter further analyzes how obscurity became a mode of publicity.

Keywords: rude song; fugitive lyric; jargon; underworld; nightclubs; modern nightlife; commodification; poetic obscurity; slang; lyric obscurity

Chapter.  23263 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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