Journal Article

Dancing Modernism: Ritual, Ecstasy and the Female Body

Elizabeth Anderson

in Literature and Theology

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 354-367
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
Dancing Modernism: Ritual, Ecstasy and the Female Body

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This article considers the intersection of ritual, dance and embodiment in the work of Isadora Duncan and H.D. I argue that dance lends itself to explorations of gender and embodiment in modernism and that the significance of the body is especially problematic for the female dancer. Modernist writing about dance tends to erase the body of the dancer, presenting her as a disembodied ideal. However, analysis of Isadora Duncan's work reveals a contradictory movement towards an understanding of dance as a bodily grounded art form. The article then traces the role of ritual and the Dionysian ecstasy in their work and their differing treatments of embodiment and sexuality. Jane Harrison's work on the connection between art and ritual illuminates the connection between the moving body and ecstatic ritual for H.D. and Duncan. In ‘The Dancer’, H.D. explores a connection between the desiring body, creativity and spirituality that forms the centre of her poetics. She is preoccupied with dance as a fusion between eroticism and ritual. For H.D., art and spirituality are rooted in the erotic body. Finally, I suggest that the nexus of ritual, ecstasy and embodiment proves to be a creative source for a number of other modernist writers.

Journal Article.  5837 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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