Critical Cosmopolitans Commandeer the Parade

Nikolas Febr


This essay considers the ways in which the 1917 Ballets Russes production of Parade functioned as a critical commentary on society and the social order. Rebecca L. Walkowitz’s writing on “critical cosmopolitanism” (actions characterized by selfreflection,aversion to heroic tones of appropriation and progress, and a suspicion of epistemological privilege) frames the discussion. Popular entertainment and avant-garde art, together with the techniques of vertigo, flânerie, and the representation of exoticism and of identity more generally, reveal that Parade’s authors (Cocteau, Massine, Picasso, and Satie) constructed a critically cosmopolitan, modernist entity. This adds a further dimension to the understanding of Parade, a work that also figures prominently in the dawning of realist ballet and that led to the first appearance of the term surrealism

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