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A Strange American Funeral: Dance and Technological Reproduction in 1940s USA

Field-Donovan, Freya; (2022) A Strange American Funeral: Dance and Technological Reproduction in 1940s USA. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

A Strange American Funeral examines dance in Depression era America, the historical period in which ‘contemporary’ dance began to emerge. With no history of ballet, like most other Western nations, American dance was an unfixed cultural category, an aesthetic form that had not yet been cast in an official institutionalised role in American culture. In order to address this lack of history, I will consider the institutional forms in which dance circulated: exhibitions, books, and films. By writing about dance through these visual technologies, I will be able to historicise dance without isolating the body from the social, technological, and institutional frames through which they are produced. This thesis seeks to do more than recover dance history in the 1930s and 1940s. By approaching dance through documents and media, as opposed to recordings and restagings, I seek to shift the presumptions that dance must be — or was — experienced in certain ways. To be more exact, I problematise the privileging of the ‘live’ experience in performance by stressing the need or a materialist analysis of dance practice. In this way, I am producing an archive of American dance by drawing together materials that connect my chosen mediums: books, exhibitions, and films. The chapters consider the first exhibition of dance at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1940, American Dancing; the location of dance in the explosion of photographic books in America in the 1930s, including an unfinished collaboration between Maya Deren and Katherine Dunham; and the dance and ethnography in the films of Deren and Helen Levitt.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A Strange American Funeral: Dance and Technological Reproduction in 1940s USA
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10153762
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