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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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The ‘unheard rhythms’ of Virginia Woolf

The ‘unheard rhythms’ of Virginia Woolf

(p.128) 6 The ‘unheard rhythms’ of Virginia Woolf
Literature, Modernism, and Dance

Susan Jones

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Virginia Woolf's ongoing engagement with dance, evident from her letters, diaries, essays, and fiction. In her literary experimentation between the earliest journal essays through to Between the Acts (1941) she reflected both a Mallarméan emphasis on economy of gesture and a Nietzschean ‘primitivism’ as she sought alternative modes of expression and responded to the burgeoning popularity of social dance, Greek dance, the Ballets Russes, and—prompted by Bloomsbury connections with the dancer Lydia Lopokova and artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell—she witnessed the earliest choreographic experiments of Frederick Ashton and Ninette de Valois in the 1930s. Dance operates literally, metaphorically, and structurally in her fiction to express a range of thematic concerns, including her subversion of genre and gender; her questioning of a Cartesian separation of mind and body; her response to Bergsonian discussions of time and space; and her illustration of moments of self-discovery. Most radically, she moves towards an imagining of text as choreography, implying the choreographic function or patterning of a text to express the narrative of a life.

Keywords:   Woolf, Bloomsbury, ballet, modern dance, time, space, identity, modernist novel, choreography

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