Dances With Darwin, 1875-1910

Un libro in lingua di Gordon Rae Beth edito da Ashgate Pub Co, 2009

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Gordon (French literature and culture, University of Connecticut, Storrs, emerita) examines the influence of a popular understanding of Darwinism upon the French cabaret and music hall milieu at the fin du siécle. She equates the fascination for the bizarre, especially in movement, to the growing belief that science had proved White Europeans to be farther along the evolutionary scale than Black Africans. The book begins with a discussion of the phenomenon of the "epileptic singers", people who performed while making random grimaces and twitches. This was accompanied by a rising medical interest in hysteria and epilepsy. Gordon continues with a look at the reactions of the first African dancers to perform in France as well as African- Americans who also used African rhythms and movement as well as white performers who imitated them. She points out the fascination/aversion dichotomy, especially in the "primitive" sexuality of the Other. In the chapter on the dance, the cake walk, the links from chimpanzee to Black human to (European) White human is made clear from a contemporary cartoon. The use of the term "epilepsy" to describe these movements continues the idea that the strange, ugly or uncontrolled are examples are early stages in Darwinian 0evolution. This is a complex discussion that cannot be adequately summarized here and is well worth reading. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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