Tacky/Wacky: The Corny as an Aesthetic Category

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Mathieu Perrot
contact email: 

“What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children’s books, old operas, silly old songs, the naïve rhythms of country rimes,” Arthur Rimbaud, The Alchemy of the Word (1873).


Often rejected as silly, ridiculous, or unsubtle, corny expressions are still important cultural references.  For a long time, tacky expressions, performances and objects have served as counter-models of what “good taste” should be. However, they also inspired poets, like Rimbaud and the surrealists. In the 20th century, they even became a poetics and aesthetics: after having been mocked and ridiculed, the “kitsch” became “cool.” But how does the notion of kitsch vary from one culture to another? Is there a ‘corny-cool’ and a ‘corny-lame’? When does the tackiness become “in” and when does it get boring? What does actually make puns funny (or not)? How are they used in poetry, novels, illustrations, and films? This panel welcomes serious amateurs of tackiness and puns, which are, in Victor Hugo’s terms, the “droppings of the flying wit,” to examine the notions of passé, outmoded, the corny and the kitsch, in various languages and cultures from the 19th century to the present day.

Selected presentations will be invited to submit an article-length version to be considered for an edited volume.

Please submit a 150-200 word abstract and short bio before September 30th to the NeMLA submission page below.

For further questions or inquiries on this panel, please contact Mathieu Perrot (chair) at perrotm@lafayette.edu.