The gymnastics of thought
Elsa Gindler's networks of knowledge
Elsa Gindler, Nina Gorte, Charlotte Pfeffer, Gerda Alexander, Hedwig von Rohden and Louise Langgaard — these names all stand for the female side of the German movement for "body reform" and Lebensreform, "life reform", that in the early twentieth century propounded gymnastics as a way of exploring new kinds of thinking about bodily experience. What these women shared — to summarize very briefly — was an intention to draw together psychological feeling, bodily experience, dance and musical elements into an all-embracing, free and creative way of life. This plan revolved about the body. After decades hidden away behind Christian and moralistic feelings of guilt, the body now became the theatre of utopian sociopolitical projects. It was to be educated to move in natural, hygienic ways, and correct posture would also produce behavioural change more generally.1 Exercise and training became forms of knowledge, and to train the body was to train behaviour. Men like Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Rudolf Bode and Alfred Müller became the stars of their respective "methods", surrounded by a throng of mainly female disciples — this despite their attacks on the "feminization" of the civilized world.2 They believed that the appropriate place for the rhythmic human being was within the community; only in the community could the egocentric individual's "physical and intellectual impediments", as Alfred Müller called them, be healed.3
Rothe, K. (2014)., The gymnastics of thought: Elsa Gindler's networks of knowledge, in L. Cull & A. Lagaay (eds.), Encounters in performance philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 197-219.
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