In This Labyrinth: The Phantom of the Opera In Erik's Times and Ours

Exploring Phantom, Phanship, and the world that shapes them.

Resources and Links

I thought it might be useful to include some resources for folks who may be new to some or all of the kinds of stuff I talk about in the show, and/or to the language and frameworks I use to analyze Phantom. So below are some of the books and websites that really helped me get going thinking about POTO this way. I hope they’re helpful, and of course I’ll add more as I find them! And I cannot recommend these works highly enough. Some of them have truly changed my life!

First of all, though, I do invite you to check out the Facebook group for this podcast. I set it up in addition to the Facebook page so there’d be a more interactive space available for discussion and sharing of thoughts, ideas, resources, etc,. I hope it’s useful, and also fun!

And now…:

About Face

An awesome Canadian self-empowerment and advocacy organization by and for people with facial distinctions (the term they use), Disfigured people, etc,.

Autistic Hoya

An awesome, unashamedly militant resource from and for the Autistic community! Their primer page has links to lots of other great resources as well, some specific to Autism, but many on Disability more broadly.

Clare, Eli. (2015) Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation. Duke University Press.

There simply aren’t enough words for awesome in the English language to describe this book, without which I might never have begun doing the work I now do with Phantom! This is actually the third edition of a work originally published in the late 1990s. And it was 20 years ahead of its time then, and, for my money, still is now! In it, Clare weaves together his own life history as a Trans man with a rich understanding of Disability as a social process, not merely a biological fact, and grounds it in a deep sense of ecology while he’s at it. Seriously, go by your fastest modality and read this book!

Clare, Eli. Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling With Cure. Duke University Press, 2016.

As the title suggests, Clare grapples in this amazing book with the politics of cure, and he does so with the same beauty, nuance and compassion that he displays in Exile and Pride. He explores how medicalized cure has helped and brought relief to some who genuinely experience suffering, but also how ideas of disease and cure have historically (and even still today) been used to justify violence against Indigenous, Black, Brown and Disabled people.

Davis, Lennard J. “Bodies of Difference: Politics, Disability, and Representation”. In Snyder, Sharon L, Brenda Jo Brueggeman and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson eds. (2002) Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Modern Language Association of America, New York. pp 100-106

In this article, Deaf scholar Lennard Davis traces the concept of “normal” as it emerged in the 19th century. He examines how it came to the fore as part of the development of the capitalist nation-state, functioning as a key source of legitimacy for both the notion of the citizen and that of the interchangeable worker.

Disability After Dark

A great podcast! Frank, often hilarious discussion of the complicated terrain of sex and Disability. Also, frequent awesome interviews with other Disabled artists and activists doing work around Disability, sexuality, body positivity, etc!

Erickson, Loree. (2007) “Revealing Femmegimp: A Sex-Positive Reflection On Sites of Shame as Sites of Resistance For People With Disabilities”. Atlantis: A Journal of Women's Studies 32:1.

Erickson is another thinker and activist without whom what I do here with POTO would not have become possible! In this wonderful article, she explores shame, not as a private emotion, but as a political process by which stigma and codes of “normalcy” are internalized. And she also explores how the very sites where this process of shame is imposed can be turned into sites of resistance through performance.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. (1997) Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability In American Culture and Literature. Columbia University Press.

This book is one of the germinal works in the field of Critical Disability Studies. In it, Garland-Thomson explores the emergence of the idea of the Disabled/Deformed body in North American culture, and how that idea intersects with developing conceptions of race and gender. She does this by examining a number of key works of literature, as well as cultural practices such as the “freak show”.

Genderqueer And Non-Binary Identities

A good primer website for getting to grips with contemporary gender terminology. It includes links to other resources as well for more in-depth exploration.

Jeffreys, Mark. “The Visible Cripple (Scars and Other Disfiguring Displays Included)”. in Snyder, Sharon L, Brenda Jo Brueggeman and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson eds. (2002) Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Modern Language Association of America, New York. pp 31-39

In this article, Jeffreys explores, not just how the Disabled/Disfigured body is represented visually and rhetorically, but how its own, messy realities often defy attempts to “normalize” it. He argues that this is as important as how bodies are represented, and that it must be taken into account.

Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen (2018). Phantom of the Opera: A Social History of the World’s Most Popular Musical. Praeclarus Press LLC.

This awesome and highly entertaining book traces the history and development of Phantom as a cultural phenomenon, beginning with the original stage-musical, and proceeding to discuss the 2004 film and Love Never Dies (Lloyd Webber’s much vaunted sequel).  The author also explores how the emergence of the internet and social media have changed the relationship between producers and audiences by tracing the impact of grass-roots Phan campaigns on the development of Love Never Dies.  My one qualm with the book, however, is that, by social history of Phantom as a cultural phenomenon, she mainly means the history of the production process, although she does discuss divergences in reception between critics and audiences as well.  However, she does not discuss the phenomenon of the Phandom until the very last chapter, and she leaves it at an observation of its similarity to that of Trekkies or the Star Wars fandom.  She does not, alas, (and this would have been extremely interesting to have read given her background in psychology) explore the particularities of the large and loyal cult following that has grown up around Phantom over the past 30+ years.  I do appreciate, though, her refusal to pathologize the Phandom!

Lorde, Audre and Cheryl Clark. (1984) Sister Outsider. TenSpeed Press.

This is another work for which there just aren’t enough synonyms for awesome! It’s basically Lorde’s and Clark’s extended letter to the Feminist movement in which they lovingly, but pissedly, call it out for its refusal at the time to recognize the struggles of Black/Of Colour/Queer women as being integral to Feminism. Their essays “The Uses of Anger”, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and “Uses of the Erotic” were especially powerful for me in the development of my work with POTO.

McRuer, Robert and Anna Mollow , eds. (2012) Sex and Disability. pp. Duke University Press.

This excellent and powerful anthology explores various ways - legal, educational, rhetorical (literary and visual), etc, - in which the Disabled body is set up as out of bounds sexually and reproductively, and the ways in which this framing both reinforces and is reinforced by systems of racism, classism, hetero/sexism and ideas of nationhood. The authors in this work also, however, explore ways in which this framing is being and can be resisted, especially using the arts. (Note: I disagree, however, with some of what is argued in the essay on HIV and disclosure.)

Mingus, Mia. Leaving Evidence

This amazing blog by Disability Justice activist Mia Mingus explores the connections among Disability, race, class, gender, Queerness, and the struggle to build communities of justice. Her post “Moving Toward the Ugly” Toward A Politic Beyond Desirability” was particularly powerful for me in terms of thinking about Phantom!

Perry, George. (1987) The Complete Phantom of the Opera . London: Pavilion Books Limited.

This wonderful work traces the development of the story of the Phantom of the Opera from the building that inspired it - the Palais Garnier aka the Paris Opera, through various film versions, to its ultimate triumph in the Lloyd Webber stage musical. It contains lots of great pictures for those who can see them, and even the full original libretto! (Note: I understand there’s been a new version done for the 25th anniversary, but I gather from Phans that it’s not as good. Apparently, it doesn’t contain much new information except on the Gerik and Love Never Dies {Andrew Lloyd Webber’s POTO sequel}).

Siebers, Tobin. (2008) Disability Theory. University of Michigan Press.

Like Jeffreys’ article, this work seeks to put forward an understanding of Disability that takes into account both the physiological and the sociopolitical. He explores Disability as being relational between the body and its environment, but not just physical environment - social, political, economic and ecological environments as well. His chapters on sex and Disability and on Disability and masquerade were particularly interesting from a Phanship perspective!