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Salome's Dance: Literature and the Choreographic Imagination from Wilde to Beckett

Girdwood, Megan (2018) Salome's Dance: Literature and the Choreographic Imagination from Wilde to Beckett. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis considers representations of the biblical dancer Salome in the context of the broader choreographic imagination that formed across late nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary cultures. Through interdisciplinary readings of plays and poems, silent films, dancers’ memoirs, newspaper reviews, and other sources, I show how Salome’s dance, reinvented by Oscar Wilde in his play 'Salomé' (1893), became the model for an array of responses to dance, creating new interplays between dramatic writing, choreography, and film aesthetics during this period. In light of the depictions of dancers associated with the late nineteenth-century schools of Decadence and Symbolism, the broad critical consensus regarding images of Salome has emphasised their misogyny, apparently precluding the opportunity for feminist interventions. However, I read Wilde’s landmark play as a departure from earlier formulations of the Salome myth, showing how his text imagines a space for female performance that was creatively redeployed by later playwrights and dancers. Across my five chapters, I consider the fascination for dance displayed in texts by Wilde, W. B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett alongside the work of more commonly overlooked performers and filmmakers, including Loïe Fuller, Maud Allan, Alla Nazimova, and Germaine Dulac, suggesting fresh ways of reading the historical and intertextual connections between these figures. Drawing in particular on accounts of dance and aesthetic philosophy in the recent work of Jacques Rancière, I unveil problematic constructions of the dancing body in writing of this period in order to show how dancers engaged with issues of gender and creative individualism on their own terms. The interdisciplinary approach that I develop draws on debates across modernist studies, film studies, cultural history, and dance studies, bringing to light neglected collaborations between playwrights and dancers, and thereby challenging received wisdoms about the literary canon and the boundaries between different art forms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.749540
Depositing User: Dr Megan Girdwood
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2018 13:31
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:07
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20936

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