Dance as a Figural Pattern for Modernist Poetics

By Cecile Guedon.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper presents an attempt at observing how the arts may mingle with each other and share technical features at the beginning of the modernist period (late XIXth/early XXth centuries), with particular attention paid to dance pieces inspiring works of poetry and poetic rhetorical figures being a source of inspiration for danced
gestures. The encounter between dance and poetry, instead of confronting poetry with painting, or poetry with music, paves the way for establishing a new methodology which requires an interdisciplinary use of stylistic and rhythmical devices, as well as the combination of the Aesthetic, Linguistic and Semiotic disciplines. The confrontation of choreographical codes, operating silently, but rhythmically and visually, with the poetic ones, striving to convey such dynamic perceptions through
language, will be analysed through Rainer Maria Rilke’s, and T. S. Eliot's poetry, both heirs and readers of Stéphane Mallarmé, in relation to the innovative avant-
garde dancers Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky. My aim is to state that this interaction between poets conjuring movement within verse and dancers evocating
poetry through a choreography on the stage captures the very ambition of modern aesthetics, exploring through hybrid forms and blurred boundaries of traditional genres, the crucial notion of rhythm in every form of art. In this regard, I will try and explain why modern dance at its early stage in the XXth century epitomizes the modern thirst to investigate a renewed form of abstract and rhythmical expression, concentrating on representing dynamic conflicts, and on rendering rhythmical impressions upon the page, the score, the canvas or the stage.

Keywords: Modernism, Modern Dance, Modern Poetry, Stylistics, Linguistics, Semiotics, Choreography, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Valéry, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.149-162. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 591.348KB).

Cecile Guedon

Researcher, Centre for European Studies, University College London, London, UK

DEA, MA, PhD candidate. Specialized in European Modern poetry, I have developed an interdisciplinary method suiting my starting-point intentions: to define dancing as a rhetoric pattern and to elaborate a rigorous comparison between the way of writing poetry and the way of dancing at the edge of the twentieth century. I studied French modern poetry under this angle (fourth-year degree dissertation: “Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Valéry: Dancing as a model and pattern in French modern poetry"), and then had the opportunity to tackle the same subject by enlarging my research to the European modern poetry. My comparative study drew the similarities between William Butler Yeats’, Georg Trakl’s, and Marinetti’s works and the French poets's, in order to examine whether this dancing quality could be considered as a characteristic for the modern poetry in Europe. (fifth-year degree dissertation: “Dancing in the European Poetry at the edge of the XIXth and the XXth centuries : a study of W.B. Yeats, Georg Trakl, Marinetti"). I studied at the Università degli Studi di Pisa, Italy, in 2003/2004 (Erasmus scholarship); at the Ruprecht-Karls Universität, Heidelberg University, Germany, at the Summer school 2005 (DAAD scholarship), and in Berlin at the Winter semester 2006 (Goethe Institut scholarship).

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