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


May 15th, 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.

'[Tontiplaphol] offers an extended close reading of ballet's influence in the nineteenth-century novel, (as well as poetry), and persuasively argues that literary historians have missed seeing how it "relies rhetorically and structurally on nineteenth-century ballet's evolving aesthetic and significance." [...] Ballet had a considerable influence on American as well as English poetry of the nineteenth century, and Tontiplaphol's book deftly demonstrates how we might begin to see and study it.'Jessica L. Jessee, Review 19

Author Information

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

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction. Every Savage Can Dance: English Poets and Ballet11
1. Sprightly Dance and Other Measured Motion: Wordsworth and Balletic Expressivity53
2. Classic Pas—Sans Flaw: Byron, Shelley, and the Balletic Body107
3. Tiptoe Aspirations: Barrett Browning and Balletic Mobility149
Works Cited217