- Choreographing History, and: Dancing Modernism/Performing Politics
Choreographing History and Dancing Modernism/Performing Politics sprang from the same sources: a conference at the University of California, Riverside in 1992 and a research group at U.C. Irvine in 1993, both titled “Choreographing History,” which discussed, respectively, the project of writing about the body and the construction of dance’s history. Although the purposes of the two interdisciplinary works ultimately diverge, Franko’s study and many of the essays in Choreographing History share a desire to consider the place of the spectator/historian within the historical narrative, a penchant for an intriguing juxtaposition of subjects, a healthy respect for the place of the body within scholarly discourse, and a postmodern perspecti ve on performance.
Choreographing History answers a perceived neglect of the body in mainstream scholarship, calling for scholarship that “addresses a writing body as well as a body written upon” (12). In her introduction, Susan Leigh Foster explains the title of the anthology: “To choreograph history, then, is first to grant that history is made by bodies, and then to acknowledge that all those bodies, in moving and in documenting their movements, in learning about past movement, continually conspire tog ether and are conspired against” (10). Working to dispel what they perceive as widespread loathing of the body within academia, the authors consistently invoke the work of Foucault, engage in “performative writing,” and compare seemingly heterogeneous sub jects in the construction of their arguments.
Between Foster’s introduction and Hayden White’s closing “Corpologue,” the anthology is organized into five sections. In the Þrst section, “Resurrecting Historical Bodies,” Stephen Greenblatt, John J. MacAloon, and P. Sterling Stuckey examine t he body situated within three historical milieus: seventeenth-century London and physician John Bulwer’s attempts to discover the body’s “natural” language; the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville and globalizing body practice; and the nineteenth-cen tury American South and the conflation of slavery, a dance called the “Ring Shout,” and Christianity. The next section, “Bodily Interventions into Academic Disciplines,” with essays by Mario Biagioli, Susan McClary, and Randy Martin, looks at the pla ce of the body within science, music, and dance ethnography.
It is within the third section, “Moving Theory Across Bodies of Practice,” that some of the most provocative, seemingly disparate juxtapositions of subjects in recent scholarly discourse occur. Thomas W. Laqueur argues convincingly in the section’s Þ ;rst essay that credit, novels, and masturbation are textually linked because they all grew out of a common “villain”—fictionality, or the “realm of the imagined” (121). Joseph Roach illustrates three cultural “tactics” for the ways bodies enter int o representation—subtraction, subordination, and substitution; his examples range from eighteenth-century dance notation and movement patterns in Jane Austen’s novels to transsexual striptease, headshots, and the Mardi-Gras Indians. Although Miriam Silve rberg’s essay, “Advertising Every Body: Images from the Japanese Modern Years,” does not engage in the kind of provocative conflation utilized by Laqueur and Roach, Silverberg takes an equally interesting approach to scholarship. In order to demonstr ate how archivists, capitalists, and cartoonists imagined bodies in Japanese modern culture, Silverberg includes six pages of illustrations, offering the reader “the option to read my history of the advertising of ‘every Japanese body’ both through my int erpretation, moving [End Page 247] back and forth between text and images . . . or solely via my ordering of pictorial images” (130). The result is a rich, multi-layered narrative suggestive of the complexities of its subject.
Although many of the essays in Choreographing History are invested in situating the position of the historian and/or spectator within the narrative, the essays in the fourth section, “Historians as Bodies in Motion,” foreground this investment. Sus an A. Manning’s excellent essay “Modern Dance in the Third Reich: Six Positions and a Coda” considers how the history of Ausdruckstanz (“dance of expression”) in Germany counters...