Music, Theater, Dance: Gendering and Performing the Body in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Kate van Orden, Harvard University
Sylvaine Guyot
, New York University
Katharina Piechocki
, University of British Columbia 

Since the 1980s, attention to the human body has remade the humanities by shifting the site of inquiry from texts to identities and giving rise to a “bodily” turn. Our own focus of study—early modernity—stands poised to bring historical weight to these scholarly revolutions: it was during the early modern period that the human body first came to be constituted through local, national, and global events that we like to call “bodily events.” This is when the first global territorial expansions and their all-too-often violent encounters with different peoples and races coincided with the rise of absolutism in Europe, and its exceptional attention to and promotion of the gendered, disciplined, and stylized body. 

Our workshop is unique in that it brings together theoreticians and practitioners of the body: scholars of the early modern period from across the disciplines who engage with the human body from a theoretical and historical perspective and artists working in a broad variety of early modern arts (musicians, actors, dancers, performers, and directors). The specific goal of our workshop is to bring emerging research on early modern opera, ballet, theater, song, and dance into dialogue with present-day theories of the body. Our regional focus is the Mediterranean. This sustained engagement with the human body, in history, theory, and practice, stands not only to promote historical reflection on the ways twenty-first century bodies are constituted, it will redirect thinking in the arts and humanities—in both research and teaching.