French Theatre of the Napoleonic era
is a Project

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Has principal investigator Katherine Astbury
Impact Who will benefit from this research? 'users' of the research outputs include other academics interested in the theatre, culture and history of the period and current and future undergraduates and postgraduates who will be able to draw on the research both at Warwick, across the UK, and internationally because of the freely accessible material available on the Marandet website. Beyond academia, 'users' will include theatre practitioners and theatre audiences since the project will include workshops in collaboration with theatre practitioners to explore the history of performance. Initial collaboration with Barry Grantham's World of Commedia team and the historical theatre group Chalemie (who have run research-led masterclasses for Warwick undergraduates on the principal investigator's modules) has demonstrated the huge potential of collaborative work of this nature, particularly in the exploration of the relationship between script and music in the genre that dominated theatrical production of the period, melodrama. The wider public will benefit from the exhibition, public lectures, and the website produced for the project. Schools will have the possibility of sending pupils to outreach workshops where some of the key findings from the project's performance-related elements can be presented and developed. How will they benefit from this research? There is great potential for enhancing the creative output of students and theatre practitioners from the project. The wider public as well as theatre companies will have easy access to plays from the period and information about those plays and their significance. What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this research? The Marandet website of plays is freely accessible and the online articles generated by the project will similarly be open access. An exhibition is planned to make the research findings accessible to the wider public. Theatre workshops will be filmed for educational and research purposes and be made available beyond the attendees at the workshops.
Status Active
Identifier AH/K000217/1
abstract Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of scholars reassessing the dramatic production of the Revolutionary decade (see for instance the work done in the United States by Ravel, Friedland, Maslan) but as yet this has not been extended to the theatre of the Napoleonic era. The few modern studies that have been undertaken on the immediate post-Revolution continue to conclude that theatre of the Napoleonic period is aesthetically inferior. Horne (2004) for instance concludes that 'not a single French play of any value dates from the Napoleonic period'. Pierre Frantz, in his survey essay in L'Empire des Muses (2004) talks of an aesthetic asphyxiation under Napoleon, despite - or perhaps because of - the importance the Emperor attached to theatre. The variety of approaches scholars of the Revolutionary period have successfully exploited to show how new aesthetic theatrical forms can surface even at a time of censorship and overt politicisation have not, as yet, been applied to the post-Revolutionary period. This project will represent a major advancement in studies of theatre of the Napoleonic era by rectifying the lack of methodologically innovative and up-to-date research on theatrical production in France between 1799 and 1815. This project takes as its base the University of Warwick's special collection of Marandet plays, a resource of over 3000 plays of the French 18th and 19th centuries, one third of which has recently been digitised with a substantial grant from JISC's Enhancing Digital Resources scheme. The collection's entire holding for the Napoleonic period has been digitised in anticipation of this project which will focus on analysis of and research into the plays. Using the holdings of the Marandet collection as a starting point, it will re-examine the theatre of the First Empire in order to see whether recent methodological approaches to theatre of the Revolution can be applied to the aesthetic and institutional conditions imposed on French theatre by Napoleon. Theatre facilitates the investigation of key aspects of the artistic process - creation of a literary text, production in the public domain, and critical reception - and is, therefore, an ideal medium through which to re-evaluate the development of Napoleonic cultural life. By extending the focus beyond the canon, an artificial construct which gives only a partial picture of the range of cultural life of early 19th-century France, and by including the reception and cultural context of theatre between 1799 and 1815, the project will provide not just a greater understanding of post-Revolutionary theatre but also of the cultural history of the Napoleonic era and of the complex interplay of art and politics. It will also provide a long-term contribution to studies of French aesthetic production of the early 19th century. By highlighting the benefits of comparative, performance-led and reception-orientated approaches, it will have a significant impact on theatre and music specialists as well as those working on Napoleonic culture, and will lay the basis for a wide-ranging and collaborative continuation project. It will also play a role in training the next generation of 19th-century scholars.
Type Project
Label French Theatre of the Napoleonic era
Title French Theatre of the Napoleonic era

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