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Gender Relations in the Romantic Ballet of the 19th Century: Sex, Drugs and Crime

ENGL 290.301
Tuesday 1:30-4:30 pm

Ballet is still seen as a “misogynist”, “conservative” art form and an “aristocratic” relic by some people. Or it is considered a fairy tale land of loveliness but also insignificant in relation to contemporary life. This course tries to confront these attitudes and use historical inquiry to think about ballet as a relevant art form for today’s world.
In this course we’ll study the context and the content of romantic ballet as it emerged as a revolutionary movement in the early 19th century in France and quickly spread across Europe to Russia and the United States.
We’ll read and analyze ballet libretti of French, English, German, Italian and Russian works and contextualize their stories and then try to answer the following questions:
When and why do women become the heroines of ballet narratives?
What do these heroines stand for?
What is their relationship to their male counterparts?
We are going to understand the concept of romanticism in dance and follow its development to the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century in theory and in practice. Together with the narratives we are going to trace the social reality of the dance world, the practice in the opera houses of Europe, and the development of a particular dance aesthetic that made ballet world famous.

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