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Dualities: the female performer and the popular stage in late nineteenth-century Paris

By Catherine Pedley


This thesis investigates the relationship between female performers, mass culture and the avant-garde in fin-de-siecle Paris. The work of the dancers, Jane Avril and Loïe Fuller, has received critical attention as the representation of either the popular stage or of early modernist experimentation, but not as an example of the site where these two artificially constructed classifications coalesced. This study seeks to fill that gap by offering a framework through which the experimental performance of these mass-cultural, female celebrities can be renegotiated in its immediate historical context. The argument is framed within the inherent dualism of the ideology and social constructions that shaped the fin de siecle. These binaries are considered alongside the cultural transformations that were demanded by the rapidly developing commodity culture of the period; a process that reveals the progressive destabilisation of these values and ideas as the new century approached. Chapter one engages with the theoretical concepts of the gaze that have framed approaches to voyeurism and objectification during the period. Chapter two discusses the problematic relationship between feminism and corporeality, a theme that is extended in chapter three with an investigation of responses to the new social role of the female celebrity. Chapter four focuses on the dancer Jane Avril and reveals the manner in which her performance subverted the contemporary associations between femininity, insanity and eroticism. Chapter five concludes this thesis with an exploration of the centrality of the work of Loïe Fuller to autonomous female performance and the avantgarde

Topics: DC, PN2000
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1259

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