Darger′s Resources

Darger′s Resources

Book Pages: 168 Illustrations: 8 illustrations, incl. 5 in color Published: March 2012

Author: Michael Moon

American Studies, Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

Henry Darger (1892–1973) was a hospital janitor and an immensely productive artist and writer. In the first decades of adulthood, he wrote a 15,145-page fictional epic, In the Realms of the Unreal. He spent much of the rest of his long life illustrating it in astonishing drawings and watercolors. In Darger's unfolding saga, pastoral utopias are repeatedly savaged by extreme violence directed at children, particularly girls. Given his disturbing subject matter and the extreme solitude he maintained throughout his life, critics have characterized Darger as eccentric, deranged, and even dangerous, as an outsider artist compelled to create a fantasy universe. Contesting such pathologizing interpretations, Michael Moon looks to Darger's resources, to the narratives and materials that inspired him and often found their way into his writing, drawings, and paintings. Moon finds an artist who reveled in the burgeoning popular culture of the early twentieth century, in its newspaper comic strips, pulp fiction, illustrated children's books, and mass-produced religious art. Moon contends that Darger's work deserves and rewards comparison with that of contemporaries of his, such as the "pulp historians" H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard, the Oz chronicler L. Frank Baum, and the newspaper cartoonist Bud Fisher.


“In Darger's Resources, author Michael Moon (who also penned the tome Displacing Homophobia) puts Darger’s art in perspective, demonstrating how it was influenced and inspired by other creative works of the times, including comic strips, pulp fiction, and illustrated children's' books (especially Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books) and freeing us up to appreciate Darger’s work without worrying about our own moral compass.” — Diane Anderson-Minshall, The Advocate

“Michael Moon... convincingly places the writer's vivid, imaginary worlds alongside those of other such fantasists as L. Frank Baum and H.P. Lovecraft. In the process, Moon upends conventional suspicions about lifelong loner Darger that critics, when considering the scenes of violence and at times oddly sexualized girls he depicts, have read into his art.” — Johns Hopkins Magazine

“Moon is a pioneer in this revisionist study, first by revealing how the dark recesses of proletarian print culture can shed light on Darger’s gory and elegiac art (and vice versa), and second by his use of nuanced queer perspectives to further elucidate intersections between sexuality, class, and religion in Darger’s writings.” — Leisa Rundquist, Journal of American Studies

“This volume by Moon (Emory Univ.) is as singular as the art and narrative it explores. . . . Moon's slim monograph adds a recuperative and redemptive perspective to critical conversations swirling around Darger's oeuvre and its reception. . . . Recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty.” — B. L. Herman, Choice

“[A] fascinating study. . . . Through the extreme example of Darger, Moon shows us the ways in which Americans can seemingly piece together new personal narratives and create alternative textual realities through varied print cultures. . . .” — Paige Gray, Journal of American Culture

“Moon’s nuanced, insightful, and compassionate interpretations of gender expression are exemplary. . . . We can all admire Moon’s imperative to redeem Darger from the pathologizing interpretations of the past.” — Miguel de Baca, CAA Reviews

"This short monograph is a beautiful re-evaluation of an author and artist relegated to the category of twentieth-century oddity as Moon powerfully reassesses the import of Darger's work for discussions of popular culture, including comics and pulp fiction, violence and war, marginality and resistance." — Mary Foltz, Year's Work in English Studies

"Moon transcends the conventional reading of Henry Darger as outsider artist or sexual deviant to focus on the ways he borrowed from the polyglot landscape of US working-class culture—from comics and film to advertisements and newspaper articles. Moon argues that Darger provides us with the tools for thinking about working-class artists who produce without the tools and tutelage of elite arts institutions." — Jennifer Glaser, American Literature

"Darger's Resources is a masterful, witty, and moving contribution to Americanist scholarship. It is also an important book, one which will significantly alter the terms of Darger criticism in art history and expand the vocabulary of queer theory in an urgently needed way. Michael Moon links the practice of recuperating texts from punishing or pathologizing interpretations to a context based more on class and religion than on sexuality. In doing so, he provides a model of how to export some of the best innovations of queer studies to other cultural and historical terrain. Moon uses his recuperation of Darger to open up vistas of working-class cultural history." — Christopher Nealon, author of Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall

"Darger's Resources is an important, lively, and moving book. As he did when writing about Joseph Cornell in his book A Small Boy and Others, Michael Moon takes a difficult figure, this time the rather Cornellish Darger, and refuses to demonize him or normalize him." — Carol Mavor


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael Moon is Professor in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University. He is the author of Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in Leaves of Grass. His books, A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol; Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race, and Gender from Oroonoko to Anita Hill (edited with Cathy N. Davidson); and Displacing Homophobia (edited with Ronald Butters and John M. Clum), are also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Introduction 1

1. Darger's Book of Martyrs 25

2. Rotten Truths, Wasted Lives, Spoiled Collections: Darger's Work and the Brontës' Juvenilia 43

3. Abduction, Adoption, Appropriation: Darger and the Early Newspaper Comic Strip; or, Reading Around in the Ruins of a Proletarian Public Sphere 79

4. Weird Flesh, World's Flesh: Darger and the Pulps 101

Notes 131

Bibliography 141

Acknowledgments 145

Index 149
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5156-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5142-9
Publicity material