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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the “Salome epidemic” or “Salomania” that struck US opera, vaudeville, musical comedy, burlesque, and dime museum stages in 1908–9. It considers how dance exposed the porous boundaries between self and other, individual and community, American and foreigner at the turn of the twentieth century, arguing that in addition to highlighting changing definitions of female agency, the discourse of contagion and decay surrounding the Salome dance exposed deep-seated fears about a broader range of issues, including “race suicide,” anxiety about theater’s role in the moral contamination of the youth, and fear about the sexual power of the female body. It traces the dance’s transmission path across borders of nation, genre, and body, following the dance’s disease-like spread throughout the United States. Finally, it explores the various attempts to contain Salomania, situating anti-Salome rhetoric within larger social and cultural debates about women, sexuality, immigration, race, and morality.

Keywords: Salome, epidemic, transmission, female bodies, popular entertainment, Gertrude Hoffman, Maud Allan

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