Call for Papers | Some Dance to Remember, Some Dance to Forget: Dance and Memory in the Nineteenth Century

February 2, 2017 to February 4, 2017
Charleston, South Carolina, United States


In Dancing Out of Line: Ballrooms, Ballets, and Mobility in Victorian Fiction and Culture (2009), Molly Engelhardt proclaims:

Dance exerts a powerful hold on the modern memory, and that hold affects temporality: dance generates excitement that becomes the material of memory-making; it preserves the feelings connected to the past by framing moments of import for future recall; and it triggers that recall, for the constancy of dance components over time are powerful enough to transport participants into their dancing pasts.

In its vital connection to memory-making, dance in the nineteenth century served to facilitate, commemorate, and register rapid social, economic, and industrial change across the globe. Writers and artists turned to dance as a medium for exploring issues of physical and social mobility, nationalism, and gender. Dance could offer positive opportunities for the upwardly mobile—as in the carefully choreographed engagements of Jane Austen—or could invite rather grim associations—such as the early nineteenth-century revival in Europe and Britain of the Danse Macabre—a late medieval trope depicting the relationship between life and death as a ghoulish dance. Genres of dance in the nineteenth century could also scandalize—as in the shockingly sensual waltz, or the Dance of the Seven Veils performed by Oscar Wilde’s Salome.

From the quadrilles of Jane Austen to the Ballets Russes, dance continues to shape our understanding of the literature, art, and history of the nineteenth century. In honor of the theme of this year’s Nineteenth Century Studies Association conference—“Memory and Commemoration”—the Graduate Caucus invites proposals for a special panel entitled “Some Dance to Remember; Some Dance to Forget: Dance and Memory in the Nineteenth Century.” How did citizens of the nineteenth century use dance to commemorate, remember, and register individual and collective experience? How do we as scholars use dance as a lens to understand our nineteenth-century subjects? How do the dance legacies of the nineteenth century shape our modern memory of that time? This special panel will prepare conference attendees for an optional nineteenth-century dance workshop at the conference, hosted by the Graduate Caucus.

Papers might consider:

  • Dancing etiquette, and the social or economic realities etiquette might register
  • Dancing bodies, muscle memory, and the remembrance of touch
  • The material cultures of dance and dancing
  • Representations of dancers or dancing
  • The association between dancing and death, enshrined in the Danse Macabre
  • Engagements with dance as markers of economic, gendered, racial, or national diversity
  • Historiographies of dance or case studies of specific dances
  • The role that memory played in the production or reception of artworks such as Degas’s ballet dancers, or Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings of Montmartre’s dance halls
  • Cross-cultural dances in the nineteenth century
  • Contemporary representations of nineteenth-century dance in film or literature
  • Creative or alternative interpretations of the theme

Please submit a one-page CV and 250-word proposal for 15-20 minute papers to by September 15, 2016. While the Graduate Caucus sponsors this event, the panel is open to all. We are happy to respond to any queries you may have at this email address. For more information about Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Graduate Caucus, NCSA, and the conference in Charleston, visit

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