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Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries$
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Julie Vandivere and Megan Hicks

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954088

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.001.0001

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Mad Women: Dance, Female Sexuality, and Surveillance in the Work of Virginia Woolf and Emily Holmes Coleman

Mad Women: Dance, Female Sexuality, and Surveillance in the Work of Virginia Woolf and Emily Holmes Coleman

Chapter:
(p.109) Mad Women: Dance, Female Sexuality, and Surveillance in the Work of Virginia Woolf and Emily Holmes Coleman
Source:
Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries
Author(s):

Kimberly Engdahl Coates

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.003.0015

This chapter argues that Emily Holmes Coleman’s novel, The Shutter of Snow, and Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves, both politicize and mobilize the dancing female body so as to perform a critique of the nationalist rhetoric circulating between WWI and WWII, which was exploiting the maternal body and subjecting the female body in general to increased surveillance. Reading dance as signifying not only in reference to aesthetic freedom but also as instantiating a revolutionary praxis, the chapter contends that the dancing female bodies within the pages of Woolf and Coleman’s novels perform a feminist politics of refusal and a complex aesthetic unraveling of dualisms that have traditionally and historically contained and restrained women. Implicitly gendering Foucault’s assessment of the gradual shift from a society premised on spectacle to an increasingly modernized society dependent on surveillance, The Shutter of Snow and The Waves discursively choreograph lines of flight and moments of suspension which, though they may not offer easy escapes (liberation or freedom from), visually and rhetorically imagine an unforeseeable future (the freedom to), where previously sanctioned modes of female embodiment might be replaced with on going gestures of becoming.

Keywords:   dance, Woolf, Coleman, aesthetics, politics, feminism, female body

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