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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/34965

Title: Reformation and Revelry: The Practices and Politics of Dancing in Early Modern England, c.1550-c.1640
Authors: Winerock, Emily Frances
Advisor: Todd, Barbara
Department: History
Keywords: history
early modern
cultural history
Issue Date: 8-Jan-2013
Abstract: This study examines the cultural and religious politics of dancing in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. Although theologically dance was considered morally neutral, as a physical, embodied practice, context determined whether each occurrence was deemed acceptable or immoral. Yet, judging and interpreting these contexts, and thus delineating the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, was contested and controversial. Advocates argued that dance enabled controlled, graceful movement and provided a harmless outlet for youthful energy. Opponents decried it as a vain, idle, and lascivious indulgence that led to illicit sexual liaisons, profanation of the sabbath, and eternal damnation. The first chapter introduces early dance fundamentals, describing steps, genres, and sources. The chapter also discusses venues in which people danced, times of day and seasons that were most popular, and demographic details for dancers in western England. Chapter 2 demonstrates how, by varying details of their performance, dancers could influence a dance’s appropriateness, as well as express aspects of identity, such as gender and social rank. Chapter 3 examines how clergymen and religious reformers addressed and tried to undermine pro-dance arguments through their treatment of biblical dance references in sermons and treatises. Chapters 4 and 5 feature case studies of parochial clergymen and lay persons whose opinions about dancing became flashpoints for local controversies. They explain why prosecutions for dancing were so sporadic and geographically scattered: dancing practices rarely entered the historical record unless a “perfect storm” of community tensions and personal antagonisms created irreconcilable differences that led to violence or court cases. The dissertation argues that a category, such as festive traditionalist, is needed to describe those who conformed to or embraced Protestant worship but who strongly resisted attempts to “reform” their behaviour outside of the church.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/34965
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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