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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Outbreaks of epidemic choreomania, or “the dancing plague,” have primarily been treated as a subject for medical and psychological discourse. Consideration of choreomania within the framework of performance is long overdue. Choreomania seems to appear at times of extreme societal distress and political unrest. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of two major instances of epidemic choreomania is that they seem to have reflected a widespread desire for the renewed efficacy of traditional cultural institutions rather than the creation of a new social or political order. This obscure phenomenon arguably represents the most literal manifestation of Artaud’s concept of theater-as-plague and has the potential to shed light on modern attempts to articulate a sense of community and shared political vision through the use of mass gatherings. It also provides a glimpse into the dark side of this vision, suggesting parallels with the potentially less-progressive political aspects and implications of Artaud’s theories.

Keywords: Antonin Artaud, plague, medieval dance, Madagascar, Strasbourg, contagion

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