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Published: 04 July 2012

287 Pages

ISBN: 9780729410472

Bookseller Code (09)

Dramatic Battles in Eighteenth-Century France

Philosophes, Anti-Philosophes and Polemical Theatre

Logan J. Connors

Voltaire Foundation in association with Liverpool University Press

Oxford University Studies in The Enlightenment

The mid-eighteenth century witnessed a particularly intense conflict between the Enlightenment philosophes and their enemies, when intellectual and political confrontation became inseparable from a battle for public opinion. Logan J. Connors underscores the essential role that theatre played in these disputes. This is a fascinating and detailed study of the dramatic arm of France's war of ideas in which the author examines how playwrights sought to win public support by controlling every aspect of theatrical production - from advertisements, to performances, to criticism. An expanding theatre-going public was recognised as both a force of influence and a force worth influencing. By analysing the most indicative examples of France's polemical theatre of the period, Les Philosophes by Charles Palissot (1760) and Voltaire's Le Café ou L'Ecossaise (1760), Connors explores the emergence of spectators as active agents in French society, and shows how theatre achieved an unrivalled status as a cultural weapon on the eve of the French Revolution. Adopting a holistic approach, Connors provides an original view of how theatre productions 'worked' under the ancien régime, and discusses how a specific polemical atmosphere in the eighteenth century gave rise to modern notions of reception and spectatorship.