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Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone$
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Tamara Levitz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199730162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730162.001.0001

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Ida the Sapphic Fetish

Ida the Sapphic Fetish

(p.396) 6 Ida the Sapphic Fetish
Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

Tamara Levitz

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Ida Rubinstein’s expression of Sapphic desire in her performance of the narcissus plucking in Perséphone. The chapter begins by describing the culture of Sapphic modernism in early twentieth-century France and Ida’s relationship with it. In Debussy’s and D’Annunzio’s Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, Ida splits as a dandy between her outer, capitalist and inner, rebellious self by transforming herself into a famous artwork—a frame from within which she explores Sapphic desire through emotive mimicry of colonial performance. In Perséphone she tries to recreate this dialectic, but cannot pull off the effect. She merges Eros and Thanatos by donning an old coat that had symbolized for her Sapphic desire for the painter Romaine Brooks in her youth. With this gesture, her desire becomes trapped and reduced to mimicry of its own retrospective self, an example of Benjamin’s allegory, taken to the stage.

Keywords:   Ida Rubinstein, sexuality, Sapphic modernism, Claude Debussy, Dialectic of the Dandy, Romaine Brooks, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Walter Benjamin, allegory

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