Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Campus Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


History and Philosophy

Committee Member

Jesse Kauffman, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

John McCurdy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ronald Delph, Ph.D.


Beginning in the first half of the nineteenth century, ballerinas overtook male dancers on the stage of the Paris Opéra Ballet and in critical writings about the ballet. At the same time, there was tremendous growth in bourgeois male subscribership to the Opéra. Subscribers engaged in backstage affairs with ballerinas, replicating an aristocratic tradition and exchanging financial protection for sex. In this thesis I ask why male dancers grew so unpopular at this time and what their unpopularity reveals about French masculinity. I argue that newly enfranchised bourgeois audience members used the Opéra as a site to negotiate their masculinity in conjunction with the aristocracy that had preceded them. They rejected danseurs because they were tangible symbols of the pre-Revolutionary period, but embraced financial protection arrangements with ballerinas to mark their ascension as the most powerful class in France, thus creating a complex and nuanced bourgeois masculinity.