Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

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

ENGL 290.401
also offered as: GSWS 290.401
T 1:30-4:30

Is ballet a relevant art? Is it outdated or can it tell us something important about our own existence? In this course we’ll examine the evolution of concepts of the female, the male, sexual relations and gender construction. We’ll investigate the emergence of a then new aesthetic that has left a deep mark on dance, performance and the presentation of ‘the woman’.

We are going to study the context and the content of ballet as it became ‘romantic’ and as it emerged as a revolutionary movement in the early 19th century in France. We are going to read and analyze ballet libretti of French, English, German, Italian and Russian works and contextualize their stories, such as Giselle, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty

We are going to address the following questions: When and why do women become the focus of ballet narratives? In which relation do they stand to the social ‘Women’s Question’? What do these representations of women in ballet stand for? 

Projects / Assignments

  1. Seminar presentation of literature – 20%
  2. In class presentation of a [video/dvd] production of a 19th century choreography with the discussion of the gender presentation or gender construction in the ballet.  – 20%
  3. Class participation - 30 %
  4. Take home exam: Book review - Analysis and discussion of a recent study. – 30%

Reading material: The Cambridge Companion to Ballet (Cambridge University Press 2007)

Attention: Plagiarism of any kind shall not be tolerated.

Office Hours: Monday 1-2pm Fisher-Bennett 217

fulfills requirements
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major