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Unit information: Revolution, Theatre, and the Public Sphere, 1789-1799 in 2018/19

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Unit name Revolution, Theatre, and the Public Sphere, 1789-1799
Unit code FREN30110
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Clare Siviter
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Revolution, Theatre, and the Public Sphere, 1789-1799 traces how the French who experienced the Revolution engaged with political debates through the largest entertainment forum of the period: theatre. This Unit will be focused around five main texts listed below (all available online) by a variety of authors with different political standpoints. We will investigate the different political sides and tides of the Revolution; the responses of audiences and the government; the themes of censorship and propaganda; how Revolutionary playwrights broke their inherited dramatic moulds; how they wrote for the newly liberated people; the impact of the freedom of expression as it was granted and then repressed; and how playwrights and actors subverted governmental control, sometimes with fatal consequences.


  • To introduce students to a body of work performed during the Revolution and the evolution of these works over the course of time.
  • To develop the students’ synthesis, analysis, and research abilities to a level suitable for final year undergraduates and in preparation for postgraduate study.
  • To train students on using archival resources and developing methodologies such as performance as research, alongside their engagement with twentieth and twenty-first-century theoretical models.
  • To nuance the students’ approach to the political and theatrical history of the Revolution and the differences between Paris and the provinces.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit the student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a high level of knowledge of the theatre of the second half of the eighteenth century
  2. Articulate sophisticated and complex analysis in both written and oral formats, and as appropriate to level H
  3. Use different research methodologies, including the use of archives
  4. Demonstrate the ability to analyse complex material and reach critical judgements as appropriate to level H
  5. Present material professionally in an oral format

Teaching details

1 x weekly lecture

1 x weekly seminar

Students will also make use of digital humanities databases (notably and online libraries (especially Gallica).

Assessment Details

1 x 3,000 word essay assessing ILOs 1-4 (75%)

1 x 15-minute oral presentation assessing ILOs 1-5 (25%)

Reading and References

Marie-Joseph Chénier, Charles IX(1789)

Olympe de Gouges, Mirabeau aux Champs-Elysées (1791)

Jean-Louis Laya, L’Ami des lois(1793)

Charles Pierre Ducancel, L’Intérieur des comités révolutionnaires (1795)

August Kotzebue, Misanthropie et repentir, trans. by Julie Molé (1798)