What can the Enlightenment teach us about theater and emotion?

Voltaire Foundation

What connects the religious zealots who tried to annihilate theater under Louis XIV to an early Enlightenment attempt to hoist theater up as the most complete method of understanding and influencing human behavior? How did theatrical affect transform from a dangerous contamination of the soul to a particular regime of emotional pedagogy that was supposed to help spectators navigate the complexities of society? What happens to spectators when they watch a play and how did notions of that “infiltrating” moment change during a tumultuous, yet understudied, period in French history? And most essentially, why should tensions and debates about theater, spectatorship, and emotion in early modern France interest us now?

The Emergence of a theatrical science of man in FranceThe Emergence of a theatrical science of man in France, 1660-1740 is the January 2020 volume of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series.

In The Emergence of a theatrical science of man in France, 1660-1740, I investigate…

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