The Anatomy of Dance Discourse: Literary and Philosophical Approaches to Dance in the Later Graeco-Roman World

ISBN : 9780198807728

Karin Schlapbach
352 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Dec 2017
Send mail

Within the newly thriving field of ancient Greek and Roman performance and dance studies, The Anatomy of Dance Discourse offers a fresh and original perspective on ancient perceptions of dance. Focusing on the second century CE, it provides an overview of the dance discourse of this period and explores the conceptualization of dance across an array of different texts, from Plutarch and Lucian of Samosata, to the apocryphal Acts of John, Longus, and Apuleius. The volume is divided into two Parts: while the second Part discusses ekphraseis of dance performance in prose and poetry of the Roman imperial period, the first delves more deeply into an examination of how both philosophical and literary treatments of dance interacted with other areas of cultural expression, whether language and poetry, rhetoric and art, or philosophy and religion. Its distinctive contribution lies in this juxtaposition of ancient theorizations of dance and philosophical analyses of the medium with literary depictions of dance scenes and performances, and it attends not only to the highly encoded genre of pantomime, which dominated the stage in the Roman empire, but also to acrobatic, non-representational dances. This twofold nature of dance sparked highly sophisticated reflections on the relationship between dance and meaning in the ancient world, and the volume defends the novel claim that in the imperial period it became more and more palpable that dance, unlike painting or sculpture, could be representational or not: a performance of nothing but itself. It argues that dance was understood as a practice in which human beings, whether as dancers or spectators, are confronted with the irreducible reality of their own physical existence, which is constantly changing, and that its way to cognition and action is physical experience.


List of Figures
0 Introduction
1. Elements of ancient dance discourse
2. Literary contexts of ancient dance discourse
3. Art and text, ekphrasis and dance
4. Mimesis, display, and the cultural force of dance

Part I. Frameworks for a Discourse on Dance
1 The Grammar of Dance: Plutarch's Table Talk 9.15 in Context
1. Dance and language: the legacy of choreia
2. The place of dance in Plutarch's Table Talk
3. Phrase, pose, and pointing: pictorial and non-pictorial reference
4. Deixis and its relationship with language theory
5. Deixis as display, or how dance surpasses language

2 The Mimesis of Dance between Eloquence and Visual Art
1. The (ostensible) paradigm of the orator
2. Icons of mimesis in Lucian's On dancing
3. Body language and its interpretation
4. Dance and the discourse on images
5. Interactions with 'performative' sculpture
3 Dance as Method and Experience: Emotional and Epistemic Aspects of Dance
1. Dance discourse and the protreptic tradition in Lucian and Libanius
2. The art of spectatorship and the dance of the heavenly bodies in Plato
3. Poetic models and philosophical developments
4. Dance and intelligent design
5. Dance, experience, and cognition in the mysteries
6. The dance in Acts of John

Part II. Ekphraseis of Dances
4 (Perceived) Authenticity and the Physical Presence of the Performer
1. Xenophon's Symposium and New Music
2. pandemos mousike after Xenophon: Aristoxenus and Athenaeus
3. Myth and its authentication through dance in imperial epigram
4. The dancer's mimetic excess

5 Dance and Interpretation in Longus and Apuleius
1. Interpreting nature through storytelling
2. Shaping culture through dance
3. The meaning of art
4. The ass at the theatre
5. Lucius' absorption

6. Performance as an act of daring
6 Elusive Dancers and the Limits of Art in Nonnus' Dionysiaka
1. Dance as an aesthetic paradigm in Nonnus' Dionysiaka
2. The dancer's temerity in Dionysiaka 19
3. From change to interpretation

7 Epilogue: Dance as Experience


About the author: 

Karin Schlapbach holds a PhD in Classics from the University of Zurich. She joined the Institut du monde antique et byzantin at the University of Fribourg in 2017 after teaching classics for nine years in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa. She has also occupied research positions at various institutions in the USA, the UK, and Germany. Her research focuses on the literature of the imperial period and late antiquity and she has published widely on dance and pantomime, philosophical prose, and the modern reception of late antiquity.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.