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Conclusion Looking back at the adaptations and transformations discussed in the course of Salome’s Modernity, one cannot help but notice their great formal range and ideological variety. Wilde and Salomé graduated from censored, perverse tempters of the innocent Victorians in the 1890s, to darlings of the European theatrical and operatic avant-garde in the 1900s (with LugnéPo ë, Reinhardt, and Strauss), to vehicles for ›edgling feminist artistic innovation in modern female solo dance and the modernist art ‹lm in the 1920s (with Maud Allan and Alla Nazimova), to celebrated political icons for the gay rights struggle and certain forms of feminism. This astonishing rhetorical malleability of Wilde and Salomé in response to changing historical, cultural , moral, and political conditions and even to diametrically opposed cultural and social ends proves that the two tropes are ›oating, essentially empty signi‹ers that can take on different meanings in different contexts. It also shows the great attraction these icons have held for artists and other cultural agents, an attraction that continues on into our own day. It is both ‹tting and ironic that Wilde’s Salomé, a text that derived some of its most important ideas from previous literary and artistic versions of the theme and employed them in new and fascinating ways to express the exhilarating and threatening spirit of modernity, has itself been adapted and radically transformed so many times. Modern interpretations and investments in the Wildean Salomé may have differed widely with cultural context and circumstance over the last century, but throughout the trajectory that I have traced from symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé to Canadian ‹lmmaker Atom Egoyan, several important constants have emerged. The red threads running through all of 197 these versions are aesthetic and erotic transgression, as well as utopian modern individualism. Salomé ‹rst emerged from Wilde’s immersion in Mallarmé, Flaubert, and Huysmans as a bridge text between symbolism, decadence, and modernism. While picking up crucial building blocks from his ‹n de siècle predecessors, Wilde also developed and unfolded a new, intrinsically modernist vision of aesthetic and erotic transgression and agency that radically reinterprets the old legend and, once and for all, switches its focus from religious dogma to secular, triumphant anthropocentrism. Salom é illustrates Wilde’s anticipation of central modernist themes, such as the crisis of literary and linguistic agency, the rise of utopian modern individualism , and rebellion against established religious, aesthetic, moral, and social codes in response to the crucial literary, cultural, and religious crises of modernity. Through its crucial changes to the literary and artistic theme of Salome, especially the ‹nal scene but also via the symbolist synesthetic style, Wilde’s Salomé put an irreversibly secular emphasis on physical sensation and pleasure . As I have argued, the play develops a notion of secular sublimity that replaced existing metaphysical and moral discourses with an emphasis on physical, amoral, secular, utopian erotic and aesthetic agency through individual transgression. Especially in Salomé’s outrageous ‹nale, the sensual experience of the body’s excess ‹lls and overrides the emptiness of the soul, creating the illusion of ecstatic agency and freedom in the moment of transgression . Salomé puts forward a powerful and shocking vision of secular sublimity that replaces the search for the uplifted soul with the quest for the ecstatically ful‹lled body. These are the dramatic qualities Richard Strauss ‹rst recognized and creatively adapted in his operatic Salome, the ‹rst modernist music drama. Symbolist and decadent aesthetics emphasized corporal affect, synesthesia, sensation, and shock, and Strauss effectively translated Wilde’s textual features into explosive modernist music that similarly stimulated, electri‹ed, and intrigued audiences in the theater. In addition, Wilde and Strauss were not only conceptual modernists but also modern artist-marketeers, deliberately fusing provocative avant-garde innovation with strong appeals to popular taste. They employed styles and techniques meant to titillate, dazzle, and sell to a mainstream public, while also innovating the theatrical or operatic stage. Thus Wilde and Strauss proffered serious, experimental aesthetic ideas while still entertaining a crowd. Inevitably, in this decade after Wilde’s scandalous 1895 trials, audiences also associated the operatic Salome ’s stylistic and thematic transgressions with sexual perversity and immorality , as the contemporary German and Austrian opera reviews that I 198 Salome’s Modernity have analyzed illustrate. This con›ation between the work and the sexual proclivities and scandals of its author in›uenced or dominated not only the early reception of Strauss’s opera but virtually all subsequent adaptations and appropriations analyzed in Salome’s Modernity. In...


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Subject Headings

  • Wilde, Oscar, -- 1854-1900 -- Influence.
  • Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900. Salomé.
  • Salome -- (Biblical figure) -- In literature.
  • Deviant behavior in literature.
  • Modernism (Aesthetics).
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