Book

Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

Tamara Levitz

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730162
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932467 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730162.001.0001
Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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This book presents a microhistorical analysis of the premiere of the melodrama Perséphone at the Paris Opéra on 30 April 1934. The book engages deeply with the collaborative, transnational nature of this production, critically interpreting the contributions of the writer André Gide and stage director Jacques Copeau, the two Russians, Igor Stravinsky and the dancer Ida Rubinstein, and the German choreographer Kurt Jooss. Meaning reveals itself in theatrical aporias that emerge from the collaborators’ responses to the myth of Persephone’s central themes of faith, love, and hope. Part 1 of the book, “Faith,” begins with Demeter entrusting Persephone to the nymphs—a gesture that raises questions about how religious faith shapes artistic practice. In Part 2, “Love,” Persephone’s plucking of the narcissus and descent into the underworld lead to an exploration of representations of desire and loss, and of Rubinstein’s Sapphic modernity and Gide’s writings on pédérastie. This section demonstrates how a gulf opens up in modernist classicism between the sensual expression of desire and the attitudes toward the laws controlling it. This results in a fragmentation of classical forms, and in a shift away from the dialectics of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics toward the melancholia of Walter Benjamin’s modernist allegory. In Part 3, Persephone’s rebirth provides a springboard for a discussion of how each collaborator understood the relationship between past, present and future—a topic that implicitly reveals their politics. The end result of the in-depth engagement with this collaborative work is a revisionary account of modernist neoclassicism.

Keywords: Igor Stravinsky; Igor; André Gide; Jacques Copeau; Ida Rubinstein; neoclassicism; Walter Benjamin; Persephone; transnational; melancholia; Sapphic modernity

Book.  656 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Gide’s Anxiousness in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Stravinsky’s Dogma in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Performing Devotion in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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André’s Masked Pleasures in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Igor’s Duality in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Ida the Sapphic Fetish in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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Voices from the Crypt in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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The Promise of Irreconcilable Difference in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

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