Expression and Symptom

  • Marija Krtolica


This paper examines the relationship between artistic expression and hysterical symptom. The paper traces the development of corporeal expression in performance in connection with expression theory from literary criticism. Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring (1913) presents a reference point for how embodied expression in modernism by showing power of bodily expression beyond narrative challenged cultural preconceptions about what dance can convey. In regard to the symptom, the emphasis is threefold: the difference between the medical and the psychoanalytic symptom, the impact of psychoanalysis on the notion of symptom, and intentional integration of the symptomatic expression into performances. On the one hand, this paper points out the distinguishing characteristics of artistic expression that separate it from symptoms of disease, and social pathology. On the other hand, the paper shows that dance modernism’s engagement with hypnotically induced trance-like states, and movement idiosyncrasy challenged normative ideas in both psychiatry and traditional aesthetics. Based on Mark Franko’s concept of hystericization, which introduces the setting up of gendered scenes in Bausch’s Rite of Spring (1975), I propose that the psychoanalytic perspective, when freed of its early reliance on a definite symbolic reading, allows spectators to reflect on how patriarchal rituals trigger expression of hysterical femininity.


How to Cite:

Krtolica, M., (2019) “Expression and Symptom”, Documenta 37(1). doi:

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
14 Jan 2019
Peer Reviewed