Body Language: Ballet as Form in Literary Modernism, 1915-1935

Anderson, Kathryn (2014) Body Language: Ballet as Form in Literary Modernism, 1915-1935. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT
This dissertation undertakes an examination of the evolving relationship between
text and dance via the ballet texts of literary modernism.
My selected texts illuminate a spectrum of performativity, ranging from the
blueprints for performance used in the collaborative enterprises of European ballet
companies like the Ballets Russes and the Ballets Suédois to later unperformed works by
canonical writers. Some texts serve the utilitarian purpose of instructing production, but
others independently claim their own aesthetic importance. My study reveals how text
infiltrated ballet in the 20th century, and, in turn, how ballet came to serve new expressive
purposes on the page.
As most of these texts have never been performed, a new question arises: what does
it mean to read a ballet? Ballet texts invite a method of reading unique to their own formal
experiment: the stylistic range of these texts invites a study of the borders between types of
language in a given piece, the materiality of dance, and the word-play that implicated the
human body into the space of poetry and prose so intricately in the modernist period. In the
contexts of literary modernism and dance and performance studies, I propose my project as
a unique and useful tool with which to appreciate and interrogate historical and continuing
relationships between text and performance.
Critics, scholars, and dance and theatre practitioners have avoided confronting these
works, but I propose that it is precisely through their challenging nature that they are
essential to a more comprehensive study of individual careers and an expansion of the
boundaries of modernism. From Jean Cocteau in 1915 to E. E. Cummings in 1935, the
climate that turned writers to ballet demonstrates the value of tradition in a specifically
nuanced modernist project that negotiated a concrete cultural past in the context of artistic
revolution.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Vailele Chittock
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2016 12:48
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 12:48
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/59609
DOI:

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