THTR T583 Sec. 4220 R. 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.