New review: Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory

Deborah Withers’ book is not a biography of Kate Bush. Instead, says Sian Norris, it is a treasure map to the theories underpinning the cultural icon’s work

katebushtheory.jpgHaving been a huge Kate Bush fan from a young age, and very impressed and excited by Deborah N Withers’ recent book Self Publishing and Empowerment I was really looking forward to reading her cultural theory exploration Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory. And I wasn’t disappointed. This book is a superb exploration into the gender, queer, post-colonial and cultural theory that lies behind the music of singer, dancer and cultural icon Kate Bush. It is a joy from start to finish, taking you on a journey from the 1970s to the present, as Withers comprehensively and wittily uncovers the theoretical intricacies in the work of Kate Bush.

If you are looking for a biography of Kate Bush then this isn’t the book for you. Instead, it is a biography of music, visual art and three decades of the character Withers calls the “Bush Feminine Subject” or the BFS. This is the female subjectivity that inhabits Bush’s world, a subject who sings, plays and acts out the questions, theories and problems in Kate’s work. Withers argues that as listeners we need to separate out the singer Kate Bush and the BFS when exploring the theory of her work.

Withers describes the different characters we may not have associated with Kate Bush, the “the polymorphously perverse Kate, the witchy Kate, the queer Kate”, and to explain this she tells the story of the BFS. She separates the BFS from the person of Kate Bush herself, suggesting that with the death of Kate Bush, the BFS will permanently survive through the music and videos. She explains that the albums of Kate Bush present the journey of the BFS from birth, performance, breakdown, death and rebirth, with rebirth being perhaps a key element in the journey of the BFS, a state that is revisited over her later albums.

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