Guest contribution by Wendelyn Dufeaux (PhD), Professor of Arts and Humanities at
DaveArto Institute for Advanced Cultural Studies, Boffen University
To interrogate Funny Name “Theory”, as Camarilla Brilo has in Named Funniness: De-Colonizing Humoric Nominalism, is to disclose its underlying hegemonic impulse. Or, as Brilo herself puts it (11), Funny Name theory is
. . . an Empirico-centric, (“New”)tonian, logocentric, hetero-normative colonization of a tangled, messy, subversive reality that must be tamed, disciplined, brought into submission. Identity and nomenclature are subsumed within the reassuring confines of “Funny Nameology” in the process of which the so-called “humorously named” are hunted, tagged, displayed like mummified quarry, and finally mocked–all to the purpose of undergirding and fortifying its Phallocentric, Androcentric frame of ref(error)ence . . .
Brilo further observes that “the hunter/quarry relation and empirical investigator/scientific subject relation work to establish mutually re-inforcing hegemonic antipodes of oppression” (13).
One might expect that Frank (!) Zappa‘s life and oevre, presenting as they do a sprawling ooze of humoric named-ness (cf. “I’m the Slime”), might resist the long and stifling reach of Funny Name Theory. Yet far from escaping the hunter/prey snare, Zappa has provided a “target rich” environment for humorous name exploitation. Two “sub-genres” of Zappa name-humoric treatment have already begun to emerge so far in Funny Name (Stud)ies: the names of “real” “people” associated with Zappa (e.g. Don Van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart), and the names of “fictional” “people” (i.e. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus and the larger assemblage of dramatis personae in The Grand Wazoo).
Yet, as the last name suggests, there remains one vast yet still neglected area of Zappa’s work that has been relatively unexplored, unexploited, unoccupied and un-(colon)ized within the hegemonic, predatory and arguably cis-gendered frame of reference imposed by F(un)ny Name “Theory.” We refer of course to Zappa’s song and album titles, which in the present study we shall preemptively explore as a means of intellectual resistance against nomino-centrism and culturo-intellectual annexation represented by the F(un)ny N(am)e The(or)y.
We shall argue (again preemptively) that Waka/Jawaka (1972), with its Lewis Carroll-inflected linguistic dadaism and undeniably onomatopoeiaic overtones, that Zoot Allures! (1976), with its subversive bi-lingual word play (“Zut alors!”) evoking both surprise and early twentieth century nostalgia (c.f. the “zoot suit”) paradoxically entwined with an implicitly erotic subtext (“Allures”), and above all that Sheik Yerbouti (1979), with its juxtaposing of the Middle Eastern “other” against the socio-historical framework of late 70s disco culture–that these al(bum) titles, far from offering an exploitative “harvest” for nominative humor theoretization work rather to problematize any such attempt at wringing meaning via the victimizing, strangling grasp of humor-nominative “theoretizationalism,” a neologism we adopt here to re(present) both the privileging of the episto-hegemaniacal hermeneutic and the proto-victimization of incipient name humor(ist) text-ploitation. We shall expostulate further upon the . . .
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