What do you think of when you think of a carnival? We think of county fairs in summer, melted ice cream, creepy clowns and abandoned amusement parks. We think of transience and running away to join the circus. We think of occasion, of fireworks displays and first kisses and squished grass after Slope Day. Like your reflection in a hall of mirrors, the carnival morphs from each new angle, the line between terror and enchantment blurred by tricks of light.
In “Rhetorical Analysis of ‘Circus,’” Grace Lee gives a close-reading of Britney Spears’ “Circus,” exploring the relationship between performer and audience within the lyrics, and celebrating the song’s enduring provocation and power. In “The Spectacle of Subjugation: A Brief Overview of the Dark Histories Behind Circuses in the United States,” Stephanie Tom digs beneath the surface of our cultural fascination with the carnival to uncover its history of exoticism, imperialism and dehumanization, calling into question the way the bright and nostalgic overlay of these spectacles conceals the violence in so many iterations of the circus and carnival. In “December: Coney Island,” Vee Cipperman captures the eeriness of visiting an amusement park in winter and the warmth generated by moments of quiet familiarity with the people we love, moments struck through with the feeling that they are already memories, that the pictures we capture are already old photographs.
We hope this issue will melt like cotton candy in your mouth, evoking the wonder and magic of summer days spent outside with friends, of concerts and movie theaters and county fairs and all the moments of togetherness with strangers we’ve been missing, but are starting to imagine again.
Emma and Emma