Richard Bruce Nugent: Dancing the Kiss (hybrid event)


Mon Feb 13 2023 at 05:00 pm to 07:00 pm


Centre for Modernist Cultures | Birmingham, EN

Join Bryony Armstrong (Durham) for a talk about Richard Bruce Nugent's work, actions and feelings, and the importance of the kiss.
About this Event

In Richard Bruce Nugent’s still only partly-published novella, Geisha Man (written 1929, extract published 2002), the protagonist attends a Harlem ball in drag and dances with another guest: ‘He was whispering little exciting breaths in my ear and kissing me. […] The body feel of him!’ The intersubjective nature of both kissing and dancing are inseparable in Nugent’s writing. As a writer, dancer, ballet choreographer, and artist, Nugent shows an abiding interest in the kiss, an interest which intertwines with his role in the dance scene of modernist-period New York. This talk argues that Nugent lifts from the kiss ideas about intersubjective, intimate, and pleasurable action, and moves the kiss’s reciprocity into wider fields of feeling including that between dancer and dancer, or dancer and audience. Drawing on both published and unpublished work and Nugent’s extensive archive, I suggest that his representations of dance prioritise feelings of pleasure (particularly sensory pleasure), and that this was in tension not just with modernist theories of the dancing body, but also contemporary ideas about Black racial uplift. Ultimately, I suggest that Nugent’s ideas are not confined to the dancefloor but operate with high stakes relating to ideas about what should be represented in Black art, and how people (particularly queer people and people of colour) should spend their time and comport themselves amid modern constructions of the middle class and capitalist imperatives regarding the accumulation of wealth.

Bryony Armstrong is a Northern Bridge (AHRC) funded PhD student at Durham University in the last few months of her PhD on the kiss in modernist literature. She recently completed a two-year term as Postgraduate Representative for the British Association for Modernist Studies and co-editor of the Modernist Review. Her work can be found in Postgraduate English and Cambridge Quarterly. She is also the host of What's the Point? podcast about the need for Arts and Humanities today.

***This talk will take place in Lecture Theatre 2 in the Law Building on the main University of Birmingham Campus, in Edgbaston.***

***This event will also be accessible via Zoom--please sign up for General Admission and a Zoom link will be sent to you ahead of the event.***

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Centre for Modernist Cultures, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom

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The Centre for Modernist Cultures, University of Birmingham, UK

Host or Publisher The Centre for Modernist Cultures, University of Birmingham, UK

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