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Literature, Modernism, and Dance$
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Susan Jones

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199565320

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565320.001.0001

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Diaghilev and British Writing

Diaghilev and British Writing

(p.92) 4 Diaghilev and British Writing
Literature, Modernism, and Dance

Susan Jones

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents the extraordinary influence of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on British writers of the period. The company's celebrated arrival in Britain in 1911 transformed contemporary assumptions about what constituted ‘ballet’ in a British context and initiated discussions about a ‘new’ aesthetic by Bloomsbury writers and contributors to periodicals and ‘little magazines’, inspiring them with its experimental eclecticism and spirit of collaboration across the arts. The chapter examines contemporary responses, including those of Osbert Sitwell, Clive Bell, T. S. Eliot, Roger Fry, Lytton and James Strachey, Anne Estelle Rice, and Rebecca West, who identify the ballet with contemporary innovations in other fields including the experimental dramaturgy of Edward Gordon Craig. Their profound engagement with the aesthetics of dance stimulated literary discussions of ‘impersonality’ and the idea of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk among British modernists.

Keywords:   Diaghilev, ballet, collaboration, aesthetics, Bloomsbury, Craig, impersonality

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