This essay closely examines the extant visual archive surrounding nineteenth-century Mohawk poet-performer E. Pauline Johnson to argue that her gestural and sartorial aesthetics situate her within a transnational genealogy of American Delsartism, a turn-of-the-century literary, cultural, and kinesthetic movement closely tied to a bodily discourse of white bourgeois femininity. Drawing links across a diverse array of visual and textual archival documents, the essay deploys a methodology of performance reconstruction that newly calls attention to the importance of Johnson’s rhetoric of gesture amid her prevailing reception and interpretation as a poet in voice and paper only. By situating her costumed elocutionary poetry performances (1892–1909) within an expressive tradition of women’s Delsartean recitation and posing in North America (1880–1920), the essay historicizes the close links between literary and performance cultures during the nineteenth century, as well as intervenes in a primitivist critical tendency to interpret Indigenous performance gestures as natural and therefore outside the domains of the rhetorical, the theatrical, and the aesthetic. As a result, the essay establishes new links among cultural histories of American theatre and dance, transnational modernisms, and Indigenous popular performance in North America.


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pp. 1-20
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