"The Art of Being Young, Being Lovely, Being an Object": Female Identity and Dance in the Early Writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald
This paper examines the previously unconsidered use and representation of dance in the early writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In doing so its aim is to illuminate and illustrate the complex and subtle ways dance and Modernist literature intertwine to engage with issues of female subjectivity in the early twentieth century. The study of dance in Modernist literature is a relatively new area of inquiry, with almost all academic research on the topic published within the last ten years. This paper, in its selection of an American writer, intendeds to bridge a gap identified in these recent studies which have tended to focus on the mainly British context of ‘High’ Modernism and so this paper aims to expand considerations of dance and Modernism beyond the confines of British, Irish, and French literary works. Fitzgerald is regularly credited as the chronicler of the “Jazz Age” and the creator of the feminine ideal of the 1920s— the flapper or ‘mental baby vamp.’ This paper examines the subtle but nonetheless significant relationship between this form of female identity and social dancing in Fitzgerald’s first novel This Side of Paradise and his short story ‘Bernice Bobs her Hair,’ both published in 1920. It illustrates how social dance is central to the construction of the flapper as a female identity and examines the implications of this identity for female subjectivity.