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Madonna's Erotica

Everyone wanted Madonna’s 1992 album Erotica to be a scandal. In the midst of a culture war, conservatives wanted it to be proof of the decline of family values. The target of conservative loathing, gay men reeling from the AIDS epidemic wanted it to be a celebration of a sexual culture that had rapidly slipped away. And Madonna herself wanted to sell scandal, which is why she released Erotica in the same season as her erotic thriller Body of Evidence and her pornographic coffee-table book simply titled Sex.


But Erotica is more sentimental than pornographic. This ambivalence over sex is what makes the album crucial both for understanding its time and for navigating culture a generation later. As queer politics were transitioning from sexual liberation to civil rights like same-sex marriage, Madonna tried to do both. Her songs proved formative for works of queer theory, which emerged in the academy at the same time as the album. And Erotica was—and is—central to a developing consciousness about cultural appropriation. In this book, Michael Dango considers Erotica and its legacy by drawing both on the intellectual traditions at the center of today’s hysteria over critical race theory and “don’t say gay” and on his own experiences as a gay man too young to know the original carnage of AIDS and too old to grow up assuming he could get married. Madonna offered up Erotica as a key entry in the 1990s culture wars. Her album speaks all the more urgently to the culture wars of today

Madonna's Erotica

  • Michael Dango

    Madonna’s Erotica made the sentimental sexy at a time when the gay community and American culture were both re-thinking the nature of intimacy

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  • Book Details

    Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
    Publication Date: 07-09-2023
    Format: Paperback | 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 | 144 pages
  • About the Author

    Michael Dango is Assistant Professor of English and Media Studies at Beloit College, USA, where he is also affiliated with Critical Identity Studies. He is the author of Crisis Style: The Aesthetics of Repair (2021), which theorizes how stylistic developments in contemporary US literature, music, and visual art respond to a sense of pervasive crisis. His writing has also appeared in forums such as Public Books, New Inquiry, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Artforum.

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