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«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College In partial fulfillment of ...»

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A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

In partial fulfillment of the

Requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


The Department of French Studies


Logan James Connors

B.A., University of Rhode Island 2004

M.A., Louisiana State University 2006 May 2010


This dissertation is a result of the countless hours of help that I have received from my committee, colleagues, friends, and family. Thank you all so much for your unconditional support.

Over the last few years, I have received advice and counsel from both sides of the Atlantic. At the University of Rhode Island, I want to extend my thanks to Professors Lars Erickson and Alain-Philippe Durand for being excellent teachers, and encouraging me to pursue graduate studies in French literature. In Baton Rouge, I would like to thank Dr. Katharine Jensen for agreeing to direct my dissertation. She has been an invaluable resource on eighteenth-century French society and literature. But most of all, over the past six years, Kate has gone through dozens of red pens, cutting and ripping apart my awkward, adjective-ridden prose. She has read every section of this dissertation with a keen eye, and she—more than anybody else—has helped me develop as a writer. I would also like to thank Dr. Alexandre Leupin, my Comparative Literature Minor chair. His seminars on psychoanalytic theory and Proust have helped me uncover some of the psychological power of literature and theatrical performance. In addition, I am grateful to Dr. Jack Yeager, especially for helping me hone critical reading skills in my first graduate seminar during the fall of 2004. Thanks as well to fellow Lyonophile, Dr.

Rosemary Peters, for agreeing to help me with my research and writing at a very late stage.

I would also like to thank some current and former students in the Department of French Studies at LSU for good times and rewarding discussions: Melanie Hackney, Mark Huntsman, Mike Bierschenk, Carole Salmon, Lori Knox, Oana Cimpean, and Carla ii Bota. Major thanks to the whiffle ball team: Tom Halloran, Steve Wallace, and Jeremy Aiken. And a very special thank you to Rachel Spear, Marianne Bessy, Steven Osborn, Lauren Guignard, Steven Primeaux, Steven Shuster, Rachel Loeher, and Terri Schroth for their warm friendship.

In Fall 2007, I moved to Lyon, France. Since then, I have been helped both personally and professionally by a group of dedicated friends and scholars. First of all, I am sincerely indebted to my former advisor, Prof. Bernard Cerquiglini. As his research assistant, I was introduced to the exciting world of philology and language polemics. I hope to one day possess even a fraction of his intellectual energy and sheer love to teach.

I want to also express my gratitude to Professors Pierre Frantz and Sophie Marchand at the Université de Paris—Sorbonne. Their guidance, erudition, and acute knowledge of Parisian libraries helped me during the primary research stages of this dissertation. A special thanks as well to Prof. Olivier Ferret, Prof. Anne-Marie Mercier-Faivre, and the entire équipe at the CNRS LIRE group at the Université de Lyon II. Thank you as well to Prof. Véronique Rancurel at the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon for being an understanding and accommodating supervisor during my two years in her department.

Thank you to my friends in Lyon and Paris: Hélène Windish, Mathieu Parenti, Davide Sosso, Chiara Steffan, Clément Erhard, and Zsusza Kis.

I would also like to thank two very special people in Lyon. Firstly, I am extremely grateful towards Simon Harrison, the world’s best roommate, friend, colleague, coworker, research partner, and drinking buddy. We’ve come a long way since we tried to put two people on one Vélov’ at three o’clock in the morning after a soirée on the péniches. I look forward to a long, creative professional and personal relationship with

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enough to share an apartment with me. In all seriousness, your love, dedication, and tartes tatins are the reasons why I wake up happy every day.

Lastly, I would like to thank Don, Alison, and Quinn Connors—the original Francophiles, and to whom this dissertation is dedicated. Thanks for all of the wonderful trips to France and Louisiana. I do what I do now because of you.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………..…….…ii ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………….…………….vi







INTERNET………………………………………..……………228 WORKS CITED………………………………………………..…………………...….236 VITA…………………………………………………………..…………………….….248

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This dissertation explores the exciting world of eighteenth-century French dramatic writing, performance and criticism from the point of view of the theatrical spectator. Instead of focusing on one single genre or writer, I assemble the textual creation, performance, and criticism of certain “polemical” plays into what I term a “theatrical event.” This optic provides a holistic vision of theater and an accurate view of how drama underwent noticeable change due to playwrights’ political associations, public reactions to performance, and the emerging power of the periodical press. In sum, this project differs from previous studies by focusing on the increasing rhetorical and tangible significance of the theatrical spectator, and more specifically, on how he or she altered normative, established processes in dramatic writing, performance, and criticism.

In the first three chapters of this dissertation, I closely examine Charles Palissot’s Les Philosophes, Voltaire’s L’Ecossaise (1760), and atypical critical reactions to both polemical comedies. Here, I focus on the way partisan dramatists and their cohorts fashioned “theatrical events” through pre-performance strategies, narrative effects, and performative ruses. Then, I inquire as to why critics emphasized audience reactions to and participation in performance, rather than summarizing the play’s narrative or weighing in on traditional literary subjects.

Switching gears from a more synchronic study to a more diachronic analysis, in chapter four, I highlight a few “theatrical events” from the last years of the Ancien Regime in order to show how playwrights and critics borrowed both processes and themes from the original Palissot/Voltaire affair of 1760. With clear pictures of specific moments and more general shifts in theater history and criticism, this dissertation aims to

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Theater, Politics, and Society: Texts and the “Theatron” In this study, I will investigate the dynamic world of theatrical production during the late Enlightenment in France. As the Ancien Regime accelerated into the throes of Revolution, emerging citizens questioned traditional institutions and ultimately closed the political gap between themselves and their leaders. Whether or not citizens ever achieved the egalitarian desires that Revolutionary texts advocate is debatable. Nevertheless, notions of representation and the place of the individual in society changed from 1750 to 1793, and premonitions of this change found their way to the stage, though not in a clear, linear manner.

Theater was an important social event during the eighteenth century, and by analyzing how theater operated during this time, I hope to paint a picture of how some aspects of society worked as well. In his recent monograph on theatricality, Samuel Weber argues that theater, unlike painting, music or novels, may best occupy “an uneasy position between ‘art’ and ‘entertainment,’ [or] between discovery and manipulation…” (30). In this study, I hope to bring to light this interstitial zone between “art” and “entertainment,” or, between the artist’s aesthetic concerns and his or her desire to create a social event. Theater, because of its popularity and its ability to bring disparate members of society together at the same time and at the same place, may reveal important practices inside and outside of the Republic of Letters’ literary circles in eighteenthcentury France.

Theater has always exercised a significant social and political influence. Harking back to antiquity, Weber reminds us that, “the term theater has the same etymology as the term theory, from the Greek word thea, designating a place from which to observe or to see” (3). Echoing Weber, Florence Naugrette points out that, “le mot même de theatron, qui signifie le ‘lieu où l’on voit,’ s’applique originellement aussi bien au site des cérémonies religieuses qu’à celui des assemblées politiques” (18). In Ancient Greece, theater played important theological and political roles, serving as a venue for the metaphysical and day-to-day needs of citizens. It is important not to forget this concept of drama, with the idea that from this vantage point—looking out from the stage onto citizens—we may be able to perceive how certain elements of eighteenth-century society functioned in relation to the dramatic arts.1 Theater has a myriad of components that, when combined creatively, produce a complex experience for the spectator. For centuries, theater critics have focused both on text and performance when analyzing dramatic genres such as comedy and tragedy.2 Today, the notion of “good theater” depends on the dramatic work’s ability to find equilibrium between à priori writing (the text) and the performance-based phenomena of Denis Guénoun also analyses the original meanings of theater and theory in Aristotle’s Poetics. Guénoun, more than Weber, emphasizes the public connotations associated with the terms in Ancient Greece, arguing that, “le regard des spectateurs est appelé [27] theôria à trois reprises (dans la Poétique), et l’adjectif présente l’avantage d’une proximité avec le théâtre, puisque théâtre et théorie partagent cette référence au voir—le théâtre, c’est le lieu d’où l’on voit” (26-27).

If not for millennia, when we take Aristotle’s Poetics into account. But it was not until at least the seventeenth century that critics lamented a rift between the theatrical performance and the dramatic text. In 1677, Charles de Saint-Evremond wrote that, to the detriment of drama, theater had become, “une sottise chargée de musique, de danses, de machines, de décorations…une sottise magnifique, mais toujours sottise…” (qtd. by Pruner, La fabrique du théâtre 126).

a live, audio-visual event.3 As Jean-Jacques Roubine indicates, “le théâtre est à la fois une pratique d’écriture, et une pratique de représentation” (1).

Dramatic performance is inherently different from a textual analysis of a play or even an oral “reading” of a script. Theater is wholly dependent on voices, movements, lighting, sounds, and especially, a live audience. Michel Pruner gives a more precise definition of the dramatic arts in his introduction to La fabrique du théâtre, specifying

that theater is an:

Alchimie complexe et polymorphe qui mêle le culturel et l’économique, le sérieux et le ludique, la littérature, l’architecture, la musique, la danse et la peinture—ou plutôt le son, le mouvement et la couleur—sans jamais se réduire à un seul de ces aspects, c’est une entreprise qui oscille entre la réalité la plus palpable et l’abstraction la plus totale. (1) Twenty-first century drama critics emphasize both textual and non-textual aspects of theater, and in contemporary eyes, the stage director’s mise-en-scène is just as important as the original author’s construction of the text. We can see this fact in the way presentday critics refer first to the play’s director rather than its author, such as in the cases of Olivier Py’s Tristan und Isolde (Wagner), Peter Sellers’ Ajax (Sophocles), or Christian Schiaretti’s Coriolanus (Shakespeare).

As twenty-first century critics, our desire to put text and performance on an equal footing is a relatively modern idea that would have been unimaginable to most writers This conception of “good theater” is however called into question by contemporary directors such as Ariane Mnouchkine. In L’Âge d’or, 1789, 1793, Mnouchkine directs a play, “où la notion même d’auteur disparaît, et, avec elle, la possibilité de rejouer le texte ainsi produit dans d’autres conditions que celle de la création-événement du spectacle intitiale” (Naugrette 39). Nevertheless, for the majority of performances at popular venues in both France and the United States, the actors perform a play that is originally grounded in a text. For more information on Mnouchkine or “collaborative theater” in general, see David Williams’ (ed.) Collaborative Theatre: Le Théâtre du Soleil Sourcebook.

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