Salomania “Perturbing Detour” or “New Mentality”?


  • Antonio Rostagno Department of Modern Letters and Cultures (LCM) Sapienza University of Rome


Salomania , Danza , Teatro , Unheimlich


Salomania is a phenomenon spreading very rapidly from 1906 on; a fanaticism for the new cruel and “uncanny” feminine type. “Uncanny” (a term often used by recent muscology) translates the German Unheimlich introduced by Freud to indicate those phenomena that affect expectations and overturn the shared human qualities. The perturbation aroused by the mythical figure of Salome derives not so much from the absence of moral limits, but from its behavioral traits contrasting with the representation of the redemptive ewig Weibliche, and closer to the violent will of male possession. In the construction of the new figure, non-Wagnerian singers (Gemma Bellincioni, Mary Garden, Aino Akté) played a fundamental role, as musch as the dancers who created the instinctive and unconventional “modern dance” (Maud Allan, Ida Rubinstein, Isadora Duncan). The essay traces the construction of the new myth also through psychoanalysts and philosophers, from Krafft-Ebing to Ortega y Gassett, and investigates its impact on the horizon of expectations, thanks to a different representation of love without any of the nineteenth-century spiritual resonances and reduced to a form of “compensation” for an Eros that has lost every balance, reduced to the level of physical possession. Salomania turn out to be not only a “perturbing detour”, but above all a privileged witness of a new mentality emerging at the dawn of the new century.