BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    ‘These gymnasts do not simply perform gymnastics’ - an analysis of visual representations of the gymnastic body

    Boyle, Tiffany (2022) ‘These gymnasts do not simply perform gymnastics’ - an analysis of visual representations of the gymnastic body. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    PhD_thesis_Nov2019_FinalSubmission.pdf - Full Version

    Download (7MB) | Preview


    The shape of the Olympic discipline of Artistic Gymnastics is a legacy distilled from a wealth of gymnastic forms of movement, practiced against military, didactic, medicinal, political, dance and aesthetic objectives. Gymnastics is a form of movement for which no complete, global history exists. It has largely been neglected by research in the arts and humanities, with sports history largely contributing studies of specific gymnastic leaders, or regional or national practices. The majority of existing research derives from sports science, focusing on biomechanics, issues of bodily development, nutrition, eating disorders, and sports psychology. This thesis seeks to add to the modest existing literature a visual analysis of the manner in which the gymnastics body has been represented, tracing the genealogy of these representations back to the re-invention of gymnastics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Specific areas of analysis cover the whiteness of gymnastics; the relation of this whiteness to the reverence for classical imagery and the statuesque; gender; posing; performativity; movement notation; the tension between stillness and movement; the various clothing worn for gymnastics; and ways of watching and capturing gymnastics. This thesis takes a thematic methodology, consulting a range of interdisciplinary resources and literature, and stems out of my own childhood experience of competitive gymnastics. A range of archives have been consulted, as well as items from the sport’s visual culture: from gymnastics magazines; posters; and advertisements; to competition coverage; commentary; fan montages; leotards; badges; coaching manuals; teaching aids; and films. A practice-based thesis, specific lines of enquiry from the thesis have been explored in exhibition texts and curated public programming, with a particular focus on film, artist moving image, and exhibiting items of dress designed for the body in motion.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: Date of PhD award confirmed as 2022 by registry.
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2022 13:04
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:49


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item