Modernity's Cutting Edge

Lawrence Kramer

in Opera and Modern Culture

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241732
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940840 | DOI:
Modernity's Cutting Edge

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Modernization theory threatened the prevalent social order, a key marker of which was the established inequality between the sexes. The resultant nascent feminism and effeminacy, often associated with degeneration or exoticism, became the focus of both science and art. Richard Strauss' opera Salome, reflecting a curious obsession to project the misogynist imagery of the age, pervaded the psyche of a large swathe of the European art force. This chapter seeks to trace the genesis of this obsession. Two elements inform the solution to this problem: feminity, and modernity and technology. Salome represents the extreme feminine fear psychosis of the era, the artistic manifestation of which finds expression in projected fetishism and castration. The earliest important Salome narratives, by Flaubert and Huysmans, establish a fundamental, mutually antithetical two-part pattern—the first part culminates in Salome's dance before Herod; the second dramatizes her relationship to the severed head of John the Baptist.

Keywords: effeminacy; exoticism; Salome; fetishism; antithetical; John the Baptist

Chapter.  13373 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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