Moving Performances (Hardcover)
Divas, Iconicity, and Remembering the Modern Stage
Rutgers University Press, 9780813585451, 200pp.
Publication Date: December 13, 2016
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Fabulous yet fierce, imperious yet impetuous, boss yet bitchy—divas are figures of paradox. Their place in culture is equally contradictory, as they are simultaneously venerated and marginalized, hailed as timeless but then frequently forgotten or exhumed as cult icons by future generations.
Focusing on four early twentieth-century divas—Aida Overton Walker, Loïe Fuller, Libby Holman, and Josephine Baker—who were icons in their own time, Moving Performances considers what their past and current reception reveals about changing ideas of race and gender. Jeanne Scheper examines how iconicity can actually work to the diva’s detriment, reducing her to a fetish object, a grotesque, or a figure of nostalgia. Yet she also locates more productive modes of reception that reach to revive the diva’s moving performances, imbuing her with an affective afterlife.
As it offers innovative theorizations of performance, reception, and affect, Moving Performances also introduces readers to four remarkable women who worked as both cultural producers and critics, deftly subverting the tropes of exoticism, orientalism, and primitivism commonly used to dismiss women of color. Rejecting iconic depictions of these divas as frozen in a past moment, Scheper vividly demonstrates how their performances continue to inspire ongoing movements.
About the Author
JEANNE SCHEPER is an associate professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
Praise For Moving Performances: Divas, Iconicity, and Remembering the Modern Stage…
"This well-researched and carefully conceptualized study establishes a crucial connection between women artists' cultural production and the political economy in which they worked. Rich and complex, Moving Performances will make a notable and distinct contribution to the existing scholarship."
— Mae Henderson
"This innovative study rethinks the racialized gendered subjectivities of women who not only remade themselves and forms of performance through modernism but relocated race, colonialism, and sexuality through their very bodies."
— Eileen Boris
"The diva exudes singularity: whether she sings arias or popular songs, dances the ballet or the cakewalk, she always performs herself. This may explain why studies of female performers consider them so often in iconic isolation rather than as part of a broader celebrity culture. Moving Performances: Divas, Iconicity, and Remembering the Modern Stage remedies this problem with its analysis of four divas of early twentieth-century popular performance."
— Theatre Survey