Two very general questions frame my research:
* How does what one today would call "entertainment" inform individuals knowledge of the social world and their place in it?
* In this respect what are those specific features of performances whereby members of the audience share the same geographic space (e.g. movie theater, stadium) and can see and interact with each other?
To put it more synthetically - what happens when an individual encounters a fictional representation of social reality as part of an audience, and how is it important for the individuals aesthetic experience and everyday life?
My investigation into the cultural history of theatergoing will draw on theatrical life in France from the emergence, in the 1750s, of a new dramatic theory, which redrew the boundaries between public theater and the domestic sphere, to the Third Republic (1870) when the liberalization of theaters transformed the way authorities and subjects interacted in the playhouse and beyond. This year my focus is on the long eighteenth century and, more specifically, on the French Revolution, situated in the middle of the period under study.
Starting with Aristotle, a theater audience was supposed to represent the entire polity - that is to say, members of society involved in public life. An investigation into how this notion changed over time provides insight into more general social change.
Before the emergence of cinema and mass sporting spectacles, theater was the master medium shaping and disseminating social and political representations.
Until a certain moment in the history of theatrical institutions there was a tension between the now obvious reason for the gathering - to attend a performance - and other things taking place in the playhouse (including the social display of status, business transactions, flirting). Theater thus provides a valuable site for understanding how art acquired autonomous value and became a commodity.
Why the Eighteenth Century?
In many ways eighteenth-century notions of drama and performance inform how we commonly think about social representations, subjective perception and the collective response to spectacles as well as the distinction between private and public spheres.
It was during this period that institutionalized theatrical performances rapidly gained new audiences both geographically (from big urban centers to national and international peripheries) and socially (from urban elites to a broader range of audiences). This had a strong impact on certain technologies of performance, from theater architecture to acting and stage effects.
Eighteenth-century France was the paragon of a "cultural empire"; its domestic policies and international status were in many ways grounded in the prestige of francophone cultural production.
While the French Revolution changed the political regime and reconfigured social groups and institutions, theater has enabled me to observe continuity in the models of subjective perception and political domination, which need to be explored and interpreted.
Evstratov, Alexei G. (
Les spectacles francophones à la cour de Russie (1743-1796) : l'invention d'une société Oxford University studies in the enlightenment ; 2016,07
Evstratov, Alexei G. (
The Europeanized elite in Russia, 1762-1825 : public role and subjective self