The Pointe of the Pen

BookThe Pointe of the Pen

The Pointe of the Pen

Nineteenth-Century Poetry and the Balletic Imagination

Romantic Reconfigurations: Studies in Literature and Culture 1780-1850, 15


June 1st, 2021



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Originally a courtly art, ballet experienced dramatic evolution (but never, significantly, the prospect of extinction) as attitudes toward courtliness itself shifted in the aftermath of the French Revolution. As a result, it afforded a valuable model to poets who, like Wordsworth and his successors, aspired to make the traditionally codified, formal, and, to some degree, aristocratic art of poetry compatible with “the very language of men” and, therefore, relevant to a new class of readers. Moreover, as a model, ballet was visible as well as valuable. Dance historians recount the extraordinary popularity of ballet and its practitioners in the nineteenth century, and The Pointe of the Pen challenges literary historians’ assertions – sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit – that writers were immune to the balletomania that shaped both Romantic and Victorian England, as well as Europe more broadly. The book draws on both primary documents (such as dance treatises and performance reviews) and scholarly histories of dance to describe the ways in which ballet's unique culture and aesthetic manifest in the forms, images, and ideologies of significant poems by Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and Barrett Browning.

Author Information

Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol is Associate Professor of English at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas.