Literature and Ballet in Eighteenth-Century England | WEA Sydney

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Literature and Ballet in Eighteenth-Century England

<p>The eighteenth century was a vibrant period in European history, especially in terms of its literature and ballet. An era of firsts, it saw the birth of the English novel, the first daily newspaper

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The eighteenth century was a vibrant period in European history, especially in terms of its literature and ballet. An era of firsts, it saw the birth of the English novel, the first daily newspaper in London and the inception of ballet-pantomime. With such a boom in print culture in England, it’s unsurprising that the century also bore witness to the first serious writing on ballet, as well as a burgeoning relationship between writers and dancers. Female dancers especially- still a novelty on the European stage – featured in poetry and memoir, their shortened skirts and high jumping a source of fascination and scandal.

DELIVERY MODE

  • Face-to-Face

COURSE OUTLINE

  • A brief history of the origins of ballet in eighteenth-century Europe, including Italy, France and England
  • Rise of print culture in England and how this enabled writing and publishing on all manner of subjects, including ballet
  • John Weaver as being one of the first to produce serious writing on ballet in England, including essays and treatises, and how his relationship with Richard Steele, a prominent literary figure of the period, helped with their publishing and advertisement
  • The birth of ballet-pantomime and the ballet d’action in England and France respectively and how they demonstrated dance’s propensity to narrate tales from ancient Greek and Roman mythology, thus garnering the attention of writers like Voltaire
  • Hester Santlow and how she challenged the expectations of her gender on the English stage, her skill and celebrity the subject of various writing, such as poetry, histories and memoir, composed by prominent authors like Daniel Defoe and John Gay
  • Marie-Ann de Cupis de Camargo and how she was one of the first of a number of female dancers in the latter half of the century to shorten her skirts, as well as high jump and caper, inciting shock and fascination across Europe and forcing writers,  like Giacomo Casanova, to pen their outrage

LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Briefly outline the origins of ballet and its journey from being a court entertainment to a professionalised art form  
  2. Explain how print culture allowed for serious writing on ballet to be published and widely read by the English public
  3. Explain the importance of John Weaver’s writing on ballet to the art’s reception in England and the significance of his relationship with Richard Steele
  4. Outline how ballet-pantomime and the ballet d’action were partly responsible in altering the preconceptions of the art in Europe, inspiring written commentary and discourse in literary circles  
  5. Describe and explain how female dancers, like Hester Santlow and Marie-Ann de Cupis de Camargo used their careers to challenge the expectations of their gender on stage, thus inspiring various writing by prominent authors and poets of the period

Mia Tsikrikas

BA (Hons), MTeach
Mia Tsikrikas, (Master of Teaching, BA (Honours Class I)), has taught English Literature for the past six years and has been at the WEA since mid-2022. She majored in eighteenth-century...