Satire, Prints and Theatricality in the French Revolution

BookSatire, Prints and Theatricality in the French Revolution

Satire, Prints and Theatricality in the French Revolution

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2016:10


October 4th, 2016

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The Revolutionary era was a period of radical change in France that dissolved traditional boundaries of privilege, and a time when creative experimentation flourished. As performance and theatrical language became an integral part of the French Revolution, its metaphors seeped into genres beyond the stage. Claire Trévien traces the ways in which theatrical activity influenced Revolutionary print culture, particularly its satirical prints, and considers how these became an arena for performance in their own right.
Following an account of the historical and social contexts of Revolutionary printmaking, the author analyses over 50 works, incorporating scenes such as street singers and fairground performers, unsanctioned Revolutionary events, and the representation of Revolutionary characters in hell. Through analysing these depictions as an ensemble, focusing on style, vocabulary, and metaphor, Claire Trévien shows how prints were a potent vehicle for capturing and communicating partisan messages across the political spectrum. In spite of the intervening centuries, these prints still retain the power to evoke the Revolution like no other source material.


‘Claire Trévien’s interdisciplinary exploration of the political and visual terrain between the stage and satirical prints in the French Revolution is both imaginative and path-breaking. It opens up new perspectives on the confluence of some of the most striking visual expressions of Revolutionary culture.’
Colin Jones, Queen Mary University of London

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of Illustrations10
List of Abbreviations20
1. Introduction: the other stage of the French Revolution22
Revolutionary prints: a brief historiography27
Theatricality and prints34
2. Singing the scene: chansons and images in prints42
The case of Bonvalet (1788-1789)50
The aftershocks of 178957
Multiple voices (1791-1792)66
Songs and martyrdom (1793-1794)82
3. Le monde à l’envers: the carnivalesque in prints92
The commedia dell’arte in Revolutionary prints98
4. The spectacle of science: illusion in prints138
Charlatanism and theatricality (1784-1795)141
Spellbound science (1789-1790)155
Spectator and performer (1791-1792)160
Science as a propaganda tool (1794)167
5. Théâtre de l’ombre: visions of afterlife in prints186
Setting the stage188
Executing theatre204
Lighting shadows211
6. Conclusion240
Bibliography and other useful texts244
Images cited244
Revolutionary newspapers consulted247
Primary sources248
Secondary sources253