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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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‘Savage and Superb’

‘Savage and Superb’

Primitivism in Text and Dance

(p.151) 7 ‘Savage and Superb’
Literature, Modernism, and Dance

Susan Jones

Oxford University Press

This chapter extends the discussion of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century primitivism to explore primitivist representations emerging from earlier accounts. Moving away from the Ballets Russes, the discussion focuses on representations of Africa and examines ambivalent responses to the primitive, identified in the fin de siècle literary image of African movement in the actions of Kurtz's mistress in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Drawing on Schopenhauer's discussions of the will, this image produces anxiety and fear, but also presents a celebratory aesthetics privileging the grace of primitive human action. The second half of the chapter focuses on a single case study of Andrée Howard's ballet The Sailor's Return (1947), based on a 1925 novel by David Garnett, who in turn borrowed from Richard Burton's descriptions of West African dance (1864). The history of the ballet identifies transmissions between movement, text, and dance that sustained relationships between primitivism, race, and gender into the twentieth century.

Keywords:   primitivism, grace, Conrad, Schopenhauer, Howard

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