Visualizing his interaction with music’s history in Expositions and Developments, Stravinsky enigmatically describes his early neoclassical work Pulcinella as a “look in the mirror.” This spatial account of Pulcinella’s stylistic imitation reflects the crucial visual contribution of Stravinsky’s collaborators Pablo Picasso and Léonide Massine. The ballet’s humorous and playful collaboration among the arts insists on a thoroughly performative neoclassicism; Pulcinella takes neoclassicism’s conceptual negotiation with time and grounds it in the immediate physical spaces of its music, choreography, and set design. Whereas neoclassicism is often theorized as an overt antagonism between present and past, Pulcinella’s visual aesthetic recasts its historicism as a lighthearted dialogue among the various arts. Written in the same decade as Stravinsky’s ballet, Mikhail Bakhtin’s Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity draws a compelling image of the visual symbiosis between author and work. This appealingly cooperative model, I argue, offers a new philosophical aesthetic for Pulcinella’s interdisciplinary historicism. I take Bakhtin’s concept of authorship as the basis for an appreciation of Pulcinella’s project to reinstate history as an equal, positive collaborator in its neoclassical interaction.
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