Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Dr Wesley Lim

PhD and MA in German Literature and Culture (Vanderbilt University); BBA and minor in Dance and Movement Studies (Emory University)
Lecturer in German Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Research interests

  • 19th-21st German and Austrian Literature and Culture
  • Dance Studies
  • Performance Studies
  • Cinema and Media Studies (esp. Screendance)
  • Figure Skating Studies
  • Urban Studies


I received my PhD in German Literature and Culture from Vanderbilt University in 2012. My research focuses on depictions of and discourses on dance in German and Austrian Literature and Film. I am also interested in exploring screendance as well as figure skating studies (particularly in an East German context). I have previously taught at Miami University of Ohio and Colorado College. My articles have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Kulturpoetik, the Journal of Austrian Studies, Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, Dance Chronicle, and Dance Research Journal. This is my first year at the ANU (2018).

Researcher's projects

My current book project entitled Dancing with the Modernist City: Metropolitan Dance Texts around 1900 examines the work of German-speaking authors such as Harry Graf Kessler, Rainer Maria Rilke, August Endell, Alfred Döblin, and Else Lasker-Schüler who flocked to dynamic metropolises like Berlin and Paris to engage with other artists and intellectuals. In their writing from that period, they depicted the perpetual influx of stimuli caused by urban life—hordes of pedestrians, bustling traffic, bombarding advertisements, etc. These authors also partook in flânerie: they went on long, aimless walks through the city observing the everyday objects and events on the surface, paying attention not to their utility but to their fleeting aesthetic values. This way of viewing metropolitan movement repeatedly paralleled the writers’ experiences of watching early modern dance performances by Loïe Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, and Vaslav Nijinsky, whose experimental styles broke away from balletic form. The convergence these writers saw between the unexpected encounters during their urban strolls and experimental dance performances gave rise to forms of writing that interwove the two motifs.

Drawing from dance, performance, urban, and German cultural studies, this monograph analyzes an array of material from 1896-1914—essays, novels, short stories, poetry, newspaper articles, photographs, posters, and drawings. I argue that these writers and artists created a genre I am calling the metropolitan dance text, which depicts dancing figures not on a traditional stage, but essentially in and with the urban setting: the streets, advertising pillars, theaters, cafes, squares, and even hospitals. This genre of writing highlights the visual, the episodic unexpectedness of urban encounters, and kinesthetic empathy: by making the protagonist and the reader feel like they embody the dancer and the movement. Furthermore, these literary depictions question traditional conceptualizations of space and performance since the metropolitan environment begins dancing with the dancer. In some cases, the aesthetic realm of dance and the social space of the everyday city coalesce.

Return to top

Updated:  22 March 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers