Lecture by Petra-Dierkes-Thrun (Stanford University). Part of a lecture series on Sexuality, Gender, and Religion. Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and co-sponsored by the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Free and open to the public. For more information about the series, please contact Prof. Linda Hess.
Oscar Wilde’s 1891 symbolist tragedy Salomé transformed the sparse biblical account of John the Baptist’s martyrdom in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. The gospels’ story of a nameless, innocent daughter who dances for King Herod on his birthday and thus helps her power-hungry mother Herodias get rid of a dangerous political opponent, John the Baptist, morphed into a lurid tale about sexual and aesthetic transgression, individual triumph, perversity, and physical ecstasy in Wilde’s hands. Despite the play’s ban and Wilde’s own trials and imprisonment for “acts of gross indecency” shortly thereafter, the play went on to inspire more than a century’s worth of creative adaptations. This lecture examines the rich afterlife of Wilde’s Salomé in 20h-century literature, opera, dance, film and popular culture, and considers its relevance for feminist and queer adaptations of religious imagery today.
Petra Dierkes-Thrun is lecturer in the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature. She is the author of Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression.