Cover

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Title Pages

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Copyright

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Contents

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p. vii

Illustrations

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p. ix

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Preface

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p. xi

Dancing as a metaphor for life and death has a strongly felt presence in the humanities. “Life is a dance,” writes philosopher Alan Watts, as does Ram Dass in The Only Dance There Is. Women, Annette Kolodny tells us, must “dance through the minefield” of patriarchy to establish a subject location, while Norman Mailer claims in his book title that “tough guys ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

There are many whom I would like to thank here, but topping the list are my friends, colleagues, and teachers Jim Kincaid and Joe Boone: Jim and Joe are so smart and so knowledgeable about the Victorians, the novel— about everything, really—and their enthusiasm for the project from the beginning stages fanned my own to the end. I would also like to thank Sharon ...

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Introduction: The Natural Accidents of Dancing

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pp. 1-23

Perrot danced the polka for the first time on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre. This polka frenzy stamped its name on clothes, hats, streets, and puddings, while magazines and newspapers carried heated stories about the effects of such dancing on the body and how to do it correctly if indeed it must be done.2 The Times printed dozens of advertisements daily for ...

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1. Jane Austen and the Semiotics of Dance: The Manner of Reading

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pp. 24-50

... most apt place to begin our study of the cultural and literary responses to dancing is the eighteenth-century ballroom, for that is where the dance manners being codified and disseminated for popular uses were first rehearsed, not only for the purpose of courtship but also to secure inclusion in the broader institution of English Society. ...

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2. Reckless Debutantes and the Spectacle of “Coming Out”

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pp. 51-80

... the disciplinary apparatus upholding the eighteenth-century ballroom was flexible enough for Jane Austen to do something new—model a new, more active kind of close-reading practice— it continued to be represented in fiction as a joyous social space where families could come together and perpetuate communal unity and pleasure. The Victorian ballroom, in contrast, is rarely celebrated for its gaiety ...

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3. Sylphs in the Parlor . . . Catch Them If You Can

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pp. 81-111

... historians refer to the 1830s and ’40s in England as the golden age of the romantic ballet. Flying fairies, buried nuns rising from their graves, mermaids, and vengeful wilis1 filled the stages of Covent Garden and Her Majesty’s Theatre, fetishizing anything remotely connected to toes, tights, and diaphanous skirts. The excitement engendered by the romantic ballet was not limited to those privileged few who could afford to attend ...

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4. Seeds of Discontent: Dance Manias, Medical Inquiry, and Victorian (Ill) Health

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pp. 112-139

... Victorians’ ambivalent responses toward dancing become all the more charged and potent when we move from the realm of enchantment to the hyper-real sickroom. For while Victorians might have been dancing the polka or chasing after sylphs until dawn, they were just as likely to be dying, for theirs was one of England’s most virulent and contagious periods. In Dickens’s lifetime alone, four epidemics ...

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5. The Mourning After: Dancing the Victorians Past

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pp. 140-166

... Virginia Woolf’s The Years, two sisters wait up for their mother to return home from a party so that they can capture a moment with her, alone and uninterrupted. Waltz music drifts into the room from a neighborhood party, and shadows twirl across the blind, creating an ideal atmosphere for their increasingly dilatory and languid conversation about ...

Coda

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pp. 167-170

Notes

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pp. 171-202

Bibliography

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pp. 203-216

Index

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pp. 217-226