Between the Image and Anthropology: Theatrical Lessons from Aby Warburg's “Nympha”

Kathleen M. Gough
  • TDR/The Drama Review, September 2012, The MIT Press
  • DOI: 10.1162/dram_a_00191

What is it about?

In the 1890s Aby Warburg began to articulate a theory of performance that he called the “Pathos Formula.” He conceptualized this formula around the figure-of-woman-in-movement—“Nympha.” The “Nympha” occupies the same place in Warburg's theory as “strips of film/strips of behavior” does in Richard Schechner's “Restoration of Behavior.” Warburg's Nympha illuminates how the invocation of film strips as culturally neutral inflected performance studies from the outset with a gendering that has been reflected and contested ever since.

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