Depraved appetites and contamination anxieties: race, gender, and puppet bodies in 19th-century France

Purcell-Gates, L (2013) Depraved appetites and contamination anxieties: race, gender, and puppet bodies in 19th-century France. In: Puppet Talk Forum, 15 June 2013, University of Sussex, UK.

Abstract

A close reading of the language used in the writings of late nineteenth-century Parisian mime artists and critics reveals anxieties over the ideological construct of the “natural” body as it was positioned against the constructs of socialisation and civilisation in the late nineteenth century. I argue that late nineteenth-century nostalgia for and simultaneous disgust with a “natural” body popular in late 18th and early 19th century street performances – a body susceptible to such grotesque qualities as porous boundaries (the cat eaters) and overflowing bodily materials (Tarrare’s famous vomiting abilities) influenced the development of performance techniques based on the sterile body of the puppet or the automaton. This was a mechanised performance style marked by rapid, rigid movements, positioned against the “natural” body as identified with the fluid and organic. I trace this development through the figure of Pierrot, who transformed during the 19th century from a comic street performer to a sinister, puppet-like theatrical body. I link this to my upcoming research on the late 18th-century French medical 'monster' Tarrare.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2018 09:23
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2018 09:23
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