"A New Dictionary of Gestures": Chaplin's The Rink and Ricciotto Canudo's Skating Rink

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This essay addresses Ricciotto Canudo’s poem Skating-Ring à Tabarin. Ballet (1920) and his subsequent ballet, Skating Rink (1922). Both works, produced within the milieu of the Parisian modernist avant-garde, are responses to Charlie Chaplin’s film The Rink (1917). Chaplin is repeatedly figured by the modernist avant-garde as exemplifying the possibilities of film as a new art form, in particular providing a novel lexicon for performance through bodily gestures that characterize the fragmented subjectivity of urban and industrial modernity. This essay argues, however, that in adapting Chaplin’s critique of class relations, sublimated within the comedy of The Rink, Canudo first modifies his own pre-war ideals of intersubjectivity in light of contemporary political and aesthetic developments, notably Purism and “the call to order,” and secondly appropriates Chaplin’s subversive challenge to bourgeois order to a language through which the subject experiences imaginary dissolution, but which nevertheless guarantees recuperation and control.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Popular Avant-Garde
EditorsRenée M. Silverman
ISBN (Print)978-90-420-3161-6
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameAvant-Garde Critical Studies

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