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Nymph, scarab, butterfly: figures of the dancer in Mérimée, Flaubert and Proust

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Abstract

This article examines dance episodes from three works of French fiction written between 1860 and 1920: the roussalka dance from Mérimée’s Lokis, Salomé’s performance in Flaubert’s Hérodias, and the description of an unnamed ballet dancer in Proust’s Le Côté de Guermantes. The texts, in contrasting ways, explore networks of power and desire, as well as the relationship between the aesthetic sphere and the world of social conventions and interactions, thus reflecting the thematic significance of dance in the literary culture of the period. It would be hard to justify constructing a grand narrative that maps the history of dance on to that of its literary representations on the basis of three texts; nevertheless, in the interplay of narrative and metaphor and the portrayal of the dancer’s multiple personae, we can find traces of some major shifts in the evolution of dance from the romantic ballet of the mid-nineteenth century to the coming of modernism at the start of the twentieth.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-324
Number of pages17
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Volume55
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • Prosper Mérimée, Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, Salomé, Narrative, Metaphor, Choreography, Romantic ballet, Modernism

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