The Evolution of Yeats's Dance Imagery: The Body, Gender, and Nationalism

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Tracing the development of his dance imagery, this dissertation argues that Yeats's collaborations with various early modern dancers influenced his conceptions of the body, gender, and Irish nationalism. The critical tendency to read Yeats's dance emblems in light of symbolist-decadent portrayals of Salome has led to exaggerated charges of misogyny, and to neglect of these emblems' relationship to the poet's nationalism. Drawing on body criticism, dance theory, and postcolonialism, this project rereads the politics that underpin Yeats's idea of the dance, calling attention to its evolution and to the heterogeneity of its manifestations in both written texts and dramatic performances. ... continued below

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Lee, Deng-Huei August 2003.

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  • Lee, Deng-Huei

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Tracing the development of his dance imagery, this dissertation argues that Yeats's collaborations with various early modern dancers influenced his conceptions of the body, gender, and Irish nationalism. The critical tendency to read Yeats's dance emblems in light of symbolist-decadent portrayals of Salome has led to exaggerated charges of misogyny, and to neglect of these emblems' relationship to the poet's nationalism. Drawing on body criticism, dance theory, and postcolonialism, this project rereads the politics that underpin Yeats's idea of the dance, calling attention to its evolution and to the heterogeneity of its manifestations in both written texts and dramatic performances. While the dancer of Yeats's texts follow the dictates of male-authored scripts, those in actual performances of his works acquired more agency by shaping choreography. In addition to working directly with Michio Ito and Ninette de Valois, Yeats indirectly collaborated with such trailblazers of early modern dance as Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Maud Allan, and Ruth St. Denis. These collaborations shed important light on the germination of early modern dance and on current trends in the performative arts. Registering anti-imperialist and anti-industrialist agendas, the early Yeats's dancing Sidhe personify a romantic nationalism that seeks to inspire resistance to the cultural machinery of British colonization. In his middle career, these collective Sidhe transmute into the solitary figure of a bird-woman-witch dancer, who, resembling the soloists of early modern dance, occupies center stage without any support from men and (to some extent) contests patriarchal assumptions. The late Yeats satirizes the imposition of sexual, racial, and religious purity on postcolonial Irish identity by means of Salome-like dances in which "fair" dancers hold the severed heads of "foul" spectators. These dances blur customary socio-political boundaries between fair and foul, classical and grotesque. Early to late, the evolution of Yeats's dancers reflects his gradual incorporation of more innovative female roles partly resembling those created by the pioneers of modern dance.

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  • August 2003

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  • Feb. 15, 2008, 2:51 p.m.

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  • Jan. 21, 2014, 4:14 p.m.

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Lee, Deng-Huei. The Evolution of Yeats's Dance Imagery: The Body, Gender, and Nationalism, dissertation, August 2003; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4312/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .