“Danced Through Its Seven Phases”: Samuel Beckett, Symbolism, and Stage Choreographies – Journal of Modern Literature – article

“Danced Through Its Seven Phases”: Samuel Beckett, Symbolism, and Stage Choreographies

Megan Girdwood | Journal of Modern Literature

2019-10-12

Allusions to dance are rife in Beckett’s work, and the early development of his choreographic imagination owes much to late nineteenth-century Symbolist appreciations of dance. Symbolism’s aesthetic outlook was crucially shaped by the choreographic proclivities of its key practitioners: a group that included Stéphane Mallarmé, W. B. Yeats, and Maurice Maeterlinck. In Divagations (1897), Mallarmé declared that both ballet and modern dance perfectly modeled the union of content and form that Symbolist poetics sought to achieve. Early Beckett texts including ”Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce” (1929) and Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1932) reveal his interest in Mallarmé’s theory of ”corporeal writing,” while also repurposing Symbolist dance forms in relation to the techniques practiced by dancers Beckett knew, including Peggy Sinclair and Lucia Joyce. These forms are condensed and developed in the late work Quad I + II (1984): an play for four dancers.

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