Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dance and Literature: “Textual Choreographies”of Cuban Narrative
by Alekseeva, Tatiana, Ph.D., Yale University, 2012, 258; 3525197
Abstract (Summary)

In much of Western civilization, dominated from the 17th century onward by the Cartesian mind/body dualism, dance has been viewed as a secondary and derivative art. To the contrary, in Cuba and in the Caribbean region as a whole, the strong presence of African cultural traditions since Colonial times has transformed this cultural practice into one of the foundational artistic genres on a par with literature. Abundantly present in Caribbean prose narrative, yet largely unattended by critics, dance in its various manifestations stands as an interesting point of entry for the study of this region's literary traditions, offering fresh perspectives on major texts such as the ones analyzed in this dissertation. Based on intermediality studies and philosophical writings on the art of dance, this dissertation proposes a theoretical framework for the analysis of a hybrid genre called "textual choreography". The term "textual choreography" describes those literary works in which the depiction of dance in social, ritual and theatrical contexts transcends its mimetic dimension, infusing the texts with the structures and signification mechanisms inherent to this body-centered and ephemeral art.

The first chapter traces the emergence of "textual choreography" in Cuban literature through an analysis of Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés (1882). contradanza cabana is shown to he the meta-fictional center of the novel. The novel's protagonists. Cecilia and Leonardo. begin to carry out their forbidden love to the strains of a Cuban contradanza played by Pimienta's orchestra. And it is precisely this scene that enacts the conception of the narrative in choreographic terms, projecting the complex relationships between the characters of the work, belonging to different classes of Cuban society, as a contradanza performance.

The second chapter critiques the traditional reading of Alejo Carpentier's novel La consagración de la primavera (1978) as a Marxist pamphlet, interpreting it instead as a "textual choreography" about the nature of time. Carpentier evokes the philosophical debates about the essence of dance by alluding to the texts of Jean-Georges Noverre, who views dance as a pantomimic/narrative art, and of Paul Valéry, who understands dance as pure movement in space and time. With the ballet "La consagración de la primavera" as its meta-fictional center, the novel opens itself up to two contradictory interpretations. Viewed from Noverre's perspective, the work emphasizes the ballet's libretto, characterized by its clear Marxist overtones, as the primary source of meaning. However, seen from Valery's point of view, the formal aspects of the ballet take precedence, transforming La consagración de la primavera into a postmodern reflection about the nature of time and history.

The third chapter analyzes the Neo-Baroque style of Severo Sarduy in the novels Gestos (1963) and De donde son los cantantes (1967) as a product of the textual appropriation of African and Chinese aesthetics and cultural practices that are fundamentally compatible with the art of dance. Gestos is shown to be a deconstruction of the realist text through the rumba-like performance by Dolores Rondon. Following the trajectory set in place in Gestos, the three parts of De donde son los cantantes are based exclusively on performative inter-texts of Afro-Cuban and Chinese origin, giving birth to the dance-like prose so typical of Sarduy's work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Perez, Anibal Gonzalez
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African Studies, Caribbean literature, Dance
Keywords: African influences, Carpentier, Alejo, Cuba, Dance, Literature, Sarduy, Severo, Villaverde, Cirilo
Publication Number: 3525197
ISBN: 978-1-267-57481-7
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