During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the performer La Goulue (Louise Weber) and the Marchesa Luisa Casati became two of the most widely-recognised and represented women in Europe. They were regularly depicted in artworks and literature, mentioned in songs and poetry, and followed by the media.
Both women performed their sexuality and their personal lives, albeit from opposite ends of the social scale, and with contrasting goals in mind. La Goulue challenged the multiple stigmas of being female, working-class, Montmartroise, a dancer, and possibly queer. Despite her life being forcibly edited to follow the narrative of the “fallen woman”, she manipulated assumptions about her to her own advantage, and to turn a profit in whatever venture to which she turned her hand. In contrast, Luisa Casati was among the wealthiest heiresses in Italy at the turn of the century, and sought nothing less than immortality through art. She became a muse and patroness of the arts across countries, styles and periods, with a creative legacy that endures today. She used her sexuality in the construction of her image as a femme fatale, playing with her mythicised reputation in the performance of her public persona.
I shall discuss their affairs and relationships – with their spouses, and their lovers, male and female – to not only address the rumours about their private lives, but to see what the truth of their lives as much as the fictions around them can tell us about sexuality, class and gender during the fin-de-siècle and Belle Époque.
Will Visconti , University of Sydney
Will Visconti completed a joint PhD in French Studies & Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. He is currently a Visiting Fellow with the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory at the School of Advanced Studies. His research focuses on gender, sexuality, the arts and transgression. He has published and presented his research internationally, and is writing a biography of the performer La Goulue.
Dates & times
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|10 Oct 2017||5:15pm - 7:15pm|
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