Comparative Literature | Paris in the 1890s
C603 | 1198 | Herzel

Paris in the 1890s: Performance and City Life
9:30a-10:45a TR 3 cr. hrs. BH 238
Professor Roger Herzel, AY 207, 855-3281, e-mail: herzel

Paris in the 1890s was, in the words of Roger Shattuck, "the cultural
capital of the world, which set fashions in dress, the arts, and the
pleasures of life," these pleasures being defined as "a life of pompous
display, frivolity, hypocrisy, cultivated taste, and relaxed morals." It
was also a time of intense and varied theatrical activity in several kinds
of venues: in the commercial "boulevard" theatres; at the
Comedie-Francaise, an agency of the national government, which was at the
height of its prestige and gloried in its mission as the custodian of the
national dramatic heritage; and the low-budget, experimental "art"
theatres on the fringes of Paris, which, led by people like Antoine and
Lugne-Poe, had a profound influence on the development of
twentieth-century international theatre. Further dimensions were added to
the theatrical scene by the flourishing cabaret and music-hall culture and
by the artists, notably Toulouse-Lautrec, whose careers were intertwined
with the entertainment world. We will try to situate this complicated
world within the social context of the leisure life of Parisians and
visitors to Paris and within the visual context of the city
itself, which had recently undergone massive urban renewal; and finally we
will pay attention to the deep anxieties about class and gender roles
which found expression, both comic and serious, in many different forms of
contemporary entertainment.

All readings will be in English; they will include Cyrano de Bergerac, Ubu
Roi, Pelleas and Melisande, two farces by Feydeau, fiction by
Colette and Proust, theatre reviews by Henry James, and background
readings in art, social, and theatrical history.

Grading basis: class discussion, two or three short oral reports, one
research paper.