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The aesthetics of the demi-nu : modernist representations of the dancer in Paris and Berlin from the fin de siècle to the Nazi period / Terri J. Gordon

Publication | Library Call Number: PN56.5.D32 G67 2000

This work studies the figure of the dancer in French and German art and literature from the fin de siècle to the Nazi period, examining the relationship between popular culture, mass culture and fascist politics. I focus on the cultural capitals of Paris and Berlin, understanding the dancer as a symbol of modernist culture itself. This study reads the figure of the dancer as a symbolic and social sign, a textual hieroglyph from which we may understand larger cultural myths and concerns. Modernist texts impute a tremendous potency to the medium of dance, endowing the figure of the dancer with powers to seduce, to destroy, and even to heal. This work takes up the explosive force of female sexuality, examining the ways in which it exceeds, spills over, and is contained in the borders of the textual and social body. The first part takes up three related discourses of decline in the representation of the fin de siècle dancer, reading the biblical princess Salome as an emblem of decadence and degeneration and the dancer as a germ spreading through the social body. The second part, which moves to Paris and Berlin in the interwar period, registers a radical shift from sickness to health. While the abject, borderline figure of the demi-nu threatens symbolic order, the troupes of girls that storm the stages are fully inscribed in the borders of the social body. The perfectly synchronized movements of the girl troupes evoke restorative visions of health and wholeness, while the performances of Josephine Baker and La Revue Nègre are seen as rejuvenating forces to a war-weary Europe. The final part of my study examines the radicalization of notions of sickness and health in Nazi discourse. This section explores the relationship between female performance and fascist politics through a comparison of two radically different forms of performance art that flourished under the Third Reich: the cabaret revue and Expressionist dance.

Format
Book
Author/Creator
Gordon, Terri J., 1966-
Published
2000
Includes bibliographical references (p. 394-429)
Language
English
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Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib88229