Why was Russia, of all countries in the world, destined to be the place where the greatest of arts began and flourished? ... [The answer] resides in the involvement and pre-eminence of Russian women.... Anatomical studies have long established the ethnographic fact that Russian women have the most beautiful legs.... But the Russian woman's pliancy re- sides not only in her legs. What a back she has, what a truly swan-like neck, what a beautiful head.... (Akim Volynsky)1 1 If the Russian people could do everything as expertly as they dance, they would have long ago conquered the whole world, wrote a German journalist in response to a performance of the Ballets Russets. 2 The decadent hothouse of the turn of the twentieth century problematized nature by privileging artifice. Refusing the dictum of biology as destiny, it subordinated both the female and male body to an aesthetic impulse that was against nature, a condition described by J.-K. Huysmans in his programmatic decadent novel A Rebours (Against Nature, 1884). Among the representa- tions that he affiliates with artifice as an aesthetic ideal is the figure of the androgyne, the paradigmatic decadent hybrid, whose desire is linked to the death
Experiment – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1
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