The School of Illusions

In 1969-1970, the unnamed narrator, a film student at UCLA, begins a homosexual affair with another student of film, Victor, a Jewish political activist engaged in the organization of demonstrations against the Vietnam War. They plunge into eerie, complex erotic pleasures. But the narrator continues his sexual relationship with a Jewish girl, Rachel, a philosophy student, and harbors amorous feeling toward another young woman, Laurie, a chemistry student. Victor, too, pursues an erotic relationship with a biology student, Tamara. The film students believe their bisexual orientation opens up new ways of seeing the world cinematically and politically. Key events from the narrator’s childhood and adolescence in San Francisco and San Mateo reveal the genesis of his mysterious bisexual identity and his distinctive way of seeing. As his feelings toward Victor, Rachel, and Laurie intensify, he embarks on a student film project that uses unique camera movements to reveal his emotional “view” of four women: Rachel, Laurie, his mother, and a fourth woman, Vera. The women, however, assume a great deal of control over their images, forming their own erotic counterpoint to their images in his cinematic sexual fantasies. But the narrator’s sexual and artistic desires expose sadomasochistic tensions between cinematic vision and political illusions as the making of the film intersects with turbulent student demonstrations.

The School of Illusions depicts a unique historical moment when young people faced unprecedented opportunities for artistic, sexual, and political freedom and how one person experienced the ambiguous consequences of pursuing these opportunities. The book offers readers the opportunity to see how youthful ideals of freedom have changed or not since that historical moment.

328 pages

Release Date: November 2019

Purchase The School of Illusions from Amazon here and here.

Read excerpts from The School of Illusions here or here.

Pantomime: The History and Metamorphosis of a Theatrical Ideology

This book offers the most comprehensive history of pantomime ever written. No other book so thoroughly examines the varieties of pantomimic performance from the early Roman Empire, when the term “pantomime” came into use, until the present. After thoroughly examining the complexities and startlingly imaginative performance strategies of Roman pantomime, the author identifies the peculiar political circumstances that revived and shaped pantomime in France and Austria in the eighteenth century, leading to the Pierrot obsession in the nineteenth century. Modernist aesthetics awakened a huge, highly diverse fascination with pantomime. The book explores an extraordinary variety of modernist and postmodern approaches to pantomime in Germany, Austria, France, numerous countries of Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Chile, England, and The United States. Making use of many performance and historical documents never before included in pantomime histories, the book also discusses pantomime’s messy relation to dance, its peculiar uses of music, its “modernization” through silent film aesthetics, and the extent to which writers, performers, or directors are “authors” of pantomimes. Just as importantly, the book explains why, more than any other performance medium, pantomime allows the spectator to see the body as the agent of narrative action.  

1300 pages, over 200 illustrations.

Release Date: August 2019. Available here.


Sexualerleben und Körperkultur, Deutschsprachige Publikationen 1880-1932 (ed.). Erfurt: Harald Fischer Verlag, 2007 (microfiche and catalogue book, with introduction; an enormous anthology of German-language books—over 1300 altogether–on sexuality and eroticism from 1890 to 1933).

Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity, Movement and German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1997. (456 pp. + 86 ill.)

The Voice of Rapture: A System of Ecstatic Speech in Oscar Wilde’s Salome. New York: Lang, 1991 (182 pp. +12 ill). 

The Orgy Calculus: Theatre, Aristocracy and Pornocracy. New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications/Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991 (195 pp. + ills.).

You can read here some of my dance and opera performance reviews for artssf.

Scholarly Articles (Selected)

Entries on Gertrud Leistikow, Sent M’ahesa, Vera Skoronel, and Elsa Wiesenthal for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernist Dance, edited by Allana Lindgren, Lynn Garafola, Susan Manning, Janet O’Shea, and Danielle Robinson, New York: Routledge, forthcoming, 2023.

“A Vocabulary of Movements. The Aesthetics of Dorothee Günther,” in Orff–Arts and Education, No. 1, 2021, 4-9. In English and German versions. This is a smaller version of my article “The Aristocratic City” published in Mime Journal in 2005. See below.

Lehekülgi Eesti pantomiimist: 1960.-1990. aastad,” (Pages of Estonian pantomime from the 1960s to 1990s. Translated and commented by Heili Einasto) in Teatrielu 2019. Eds. Anneli Saro, Hedi-Liis Toome. Tallinn: Eesti Teatriliit, eesti Teatri Agentuur 2020, pp. 291-322 with illustrations, ISSN 1406-9628. This is a translation into Estonian of the chapter on Cold War era pantomime in Estonia in the pantomime history book, with supplementary commentary by the translator, Heili Einasto; includes photographs not in the pantomime history book. 

“Totalitarian Aesthetics of Mass Bodily Display During the 1930s,” in The Journal of Curatorial Studies, 8, 1, 2019, 52-81.

Review of Nicoletta Misler, The Russian Art of Movement 1920-1930 (2017), in TDR (The Drama Review), 63, 1 Spring 2019, 172-174.

Yvonne Georgi,” entry for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Susan Manning, London: Routledge, 2017 (online).

Harald Kreutzberg,” entry for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Susan Manning, London: Routledge, 2017 (online).

Dore Hoyer,” entry for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Susan Manning, London: Routledge, 2017 (online).

“Dance, Fashion, and Music Hall Scenes in European Silent Films of the 1920s,” in Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle, edited by Marketa Uhlirova, London: Koenig Books, 2016, 233-252.

“Perverse Erotik und die Vision der ekstatische Stadt,” in Metropolenzauber: Sexuelle Moderne und urbaner Wahn,, edited by Dorothea Dornhof and Gabrielle Dietze, translated by Dorothea Loebbermann, Berlin and Vienna: Bohlau, 2014, 317-344.

“Aesthetics of Early Modernist Solo Dance in Central Europe,” in On Stage Alone, edited by Claudia Gitelman, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012, 73-118.

“Gesture and Dance,” in The Classical Tradition, edited by Anthony Grafton, Glenn Most, and Salvatore Settis, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2010, 394-397.

“Masks in the ancient Roman dance theatre,” in Masks, Masques and Masquerades, Cambridge: Early Dance Circle, 2006, 7-14 (Proceedings of London conference).

“The Aristocratic City. The Dance Aesthetic of Dorothee Günther.” Mime Journal, 2005, 152-183. Annual periodical produced by Claremont College.

“Theories of Group Movement in the Weimar Republic,” Experiment, 2004, 187-215, plus 20 illustrations contained in attached CD. Annual periodical produced by University of Southern California Institute of Modern Russian Culture.

“German Physical Movement Education,” Mary Wigman Projekt, CD-ROM, Heide Lazarus (ed.), Dresden and Leipzig: University of Leipzig and City of Dresden, 2005, approximately 12 pages.

“One Hundred Years of Nakedness in German Performance,” TDR (The Drama Review), Winter 2004, 124-158. 

“Kurt Jooss,” entry for the New Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Brian Harrison, Oxford University Press, 2003.

“Deutsche Nacktkultur und Erziehungstheorie in den 20 Jahren” [German Nacktkultur and Educational Theory in the 1920s], translated by Christian Rattemeyer, in Michael Grisko (ed.), Freikörperkultur und Lebenswelt, Kassel: University of Kassel, 1999, 179-204.

“German Modern Dance,” in Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf (ed.), International Dictionary of Modern Dance. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998, 307-310.

Review of Laurence Senelick, The Changing Room, for Theatre Research International, Fall 2002

“Il principio era il corpo,” commentary on museum exhibit and catalogue concerning “The Art of Movement in Russia during the 1920s” at the Museo Acquario Romano in Rome and at the Bakhrushin Museum in Moscow, TDR (The Drama Review), 2000, 171-179. 

Review of Harald B. Segal, Body Ascendant, in Contemporary Literature, 52/3 (Summer 2000, 263-266.

“Twisted Bodies: Aspects of Female Contortionism in the Letters of a Connoisseur,” TDR (The Drama Review), T161, March 1999, 104-136.

“Nudity and Textuality in Postmodern Performance,” in Performing Arts Journal 54, Fall 1996, 76-91.

Critical essay on Peter Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret and Laurence Senelick, Cabaret Performance,in TDR (The Drama Review), Winter, 1996, 193-197.

“Orfeus and the Maenads: Two Modes of Ecstatic Discourse in Stagnelius’ Bacchanterna,” in Mary Denison (ed.), Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, 61, Detroit: Gale Research, 1997, 264-277 (reprint of 1992 article in Scandinavian Studies).

“Decontextualization and Performance Analysis,” in Luk van den Dries and Frank Peeters (eds), Bij open doek. Libor Amicorum Carlos Tindemans, Antwerp: Pelckmans/University of Antwerp, 1995, 149-158.

Critical essay on Susan Manning, Ecstasy and the Demon: Feminism and Nationalism in the Dances of Mary Wigman, in TDR (The Drama Review)Summer 1994, 187-192.

Review of Konrad Bayer, Theatertexte and Ingeborg Walther, The Theatre of Franz Xaver Kroetz, in Seminar (February 1994), 87-90.

“Christa Winsloe,” in James Hardin and Wolfgang Elfe (eds.), Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth Century German Dramatists, 1919-1992, Detroit: Gale, 1993, 440-445.

“Speech and Sexual Difference in Mary Wigman’s Dance Aesthetic,” in Laurence Senelick (ed.), Gender in Performance. The Presentation of Difference in the Performing Arts, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1992, 260-278.

 “Nudity and Modernity in German Dance, 1910-1930,” The Journal of the History of Sexuality, 3/1, 1992, 58-108.

“Orpheus and the Maenads: Two Modes of Ecstatic Discourse in Stagnelius’ Bacchanterna,” Scandinavian Studies, 64/1, 1992, 26-52.

“From Imitation to Quotation,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, 5/1 (Spring 1991), 121-136.

“Dirk Scheper: Das Triadische Ballett,” Theater Three, 8 (Spring 1990), 116-122.

“Orgy Salon: Theatre, Aristocracy, and Pornocracy in Pre-Revolutionary Paris,” Performing Arts Journal, 35/36 (February 1990), 110-136.

“Strategies of Temporal-Spatial Appropriation in Postmodern Aesthetic Performance, Part II”Theater Three, 7 (Fall 1989), 48-67. 

“Strategies of Temporal-Spatial Appropriation in Postmodern Aesthetic Performance, Part I,”Theater Three, 6 (Spring 1989), 69-86.

“Puppetry and Monumentality,” Theater Three, 6 (Spring 1989), 173-180.