The Contested Parterre: Public Theater and French Political Culture, 1680-1791 (Paperback)Jeffrey S. Ravel (author)
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In the playhouses of eighteenth-century France, clerks and students, soldiers and merchants, and the occasional aristocrat stood in the pit, while the majority of the elite sat in loges. These denizens of the parterre, who accounted for up to two-thirds of the audience, were given to disruptive behavior that culminated in full-scale riots in the last years before the Revolution. Offering a commoner's eye view of the drama offstage, this fascinating history of French theater audiences clearly demonstrates how problems in the parterre reflected tensions at the heart of the Old Regime.Jeffrey S. Ravel vividly depicts the scene in the parterre where the male spectators occupied themselves shoving one another, drinking, urinating, and confronting the actors with critiques of the performance. He traces the futile efforts of the Bourbon Court-and later its Enlightened opponents-to control parterre behavior by both persuasion and force. Ravel describes how the parterre came to represent a larger, more politicized notion of the public, one that exposed the inability of the government to accommodate the demands of French citizens. An important contribution to debates on the public sphere, Ravel's book is the first to explore the role of the parterre in the political culture of eighteenth-century France.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 397 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
"This is a meticulously researched and fluently written history of an improbable set of political actors. Ravel combs Parisian and provincial archives to map the precise social complexion of spectators, and he scours police and press records to reconstruct the feel of theaters during performances. The conclusions of this broad study point to important modifications in what has been the reigning view of the public sphere in French historiography over the past decade and a half.... The Contested Parterre complicates and enriches the Habermas-inspired view that newspapers, reading societies, and trial briefs were the principal vehicles of a critically engaged public on teh eve of the Revolution.... Ravel provides ample reason for us to rethink who made up this enlightened public and, in the process, restores to that entity its flesh and blood."-- James H. Johnson * Journal of Modern Histor *
"A superbly researched book.... Ravel has given us a much misunderstood aspect of the parterres of the grand theaters. It is a breathtaking spectacle of plebes and plebeians."-- Robert M. Isherwood, Vanderbilt University * American Historical Review *
"Drawing on a refreshingly eclectic mix of theoretical underpinnings, Ravel revises the interpretation of earlier theater scholars.... He shows us a 'public' that was not constituted primarily in the medium of print and whose opinions did not evolve in a linear fashion, from literary debate to political issues."* Eighteenth-Century Studies *
"Jeffrey Ravel gives an excellent impression of what it would have been like to have frequented the parterre in this period.... This is a highly informative and entertaining book that rightly emphasizes the significant role played by the parterre in seventeenth- and eighteenth-centure theatrical life."-- Jan Clarke * New Theatre Quarterly *
"Jeffrey Ravel's book brilliantly demonstrates the importance of theatrical practices for the definition of political issues and the construction of public opinion in eighteenth-century Paris. It associates for the first time a very precise analysis of theater audiences with a reflection on the constitution of a public sphere within Old Regime politics. Beyond the study of the parterre, this book proposes a profound reappraisal of the processes through which representations of social order and political authority were transformed during the eighteenth century."-- Roger Chartier, Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris, France
"Jeffrey Ravel's The Contested Parterre is a work of considerable merit, worthy of a place among the histories of French cultural politics produced in recent decades by Cornell University Press, the most prominent publisher in the field. The book is beautifully turned out. The scholarly apparatus is impressive, and footnotes make it particularly user-friendly."-- Andre Spies, Hollins University * H-France Reviews *
"The Contested Parterre is an absorbing, vivid, and often very funny account of usually unsuccessful attempts to control the boisterous public standing in the pits of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Parisian theatres. In departing from current views of the 'public sphere' as grounded principally in the print medium, Jeffrey Ravel's work also represents a major conceptual challenge to established understandings of eighteenth-century cultural politics."-- Sarah Maza, Northwestern University
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