Expressive and Inexpressive Movement: Pantomime and Bodily Virtuosity in Jean-Georges Noverre’s Lettres sur la dance et sur les ballets (1759/1760)
Jean-Georges Noverre was the most famous ballet master in 18th-century Europe. The treatise that established his reputation, Lettres sur la dance et sur les ballets (1759/1760) theorizes a mode of dance that emerged in the late 17th and early 18th century, often referred to as ballet d’action or pantomime ballet, which staged wordless, danced dramas incorporating pantomime and tableaux vivants. This talk will concern the distinction made in Noverre’s Letters between the ‘expressive,’ mimetic movement technique of pantomime and the ‘inexpressive,’ non-mimetic character of virtuosic dance technique. It argues that Noverre takes these movement techniques to have distinct epistemic implications with important consequences for understanding the relationship between performance and text.
Susan Morrow is Assistant Professor of German at Princeton University. Prior to joining the Princeton German Department in Fall 2022, Morrow was a postdoctoral fellow at the Universität Potsdam (Department of Philosophy and Center for Post-Kantian Philosophy) and the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL) Berlin (History of Theory Research Area). She has previously taught at Yale University (Department of German) and the Freie Universität Berlin (Department of Comparative Literature). She received her Ph.D. in German from Yale in 2019. Her dissertation, “Schematism: Poetics on the Way to Kant, 1760–1790” was awarded the ZfL’s 2019 Carlo Barck Prize.
The Craig Young Scholars Series is made possible by the generous support of Dr. Charlotte M. Craig and Colonel Robert B. Craig.