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Politics and Theater: The Crisis of Legitimacy in Restoration France, 1815-1830

Sheryl Kroen
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Politics and Theater
    Book Description:

    Moliére's anticlerical comedyTartuffeis the unique prism through which Sheryl Kroen views postrevolutionary France in the years of the Restoration. Following the lead of the French men and women who turned to this play in the 1820s to make sense of their world, Kroen exposes the crisis of legitimacy defining the regime in these years and demonstrates how the people of the time made steps toward a democratic resolution to this crisis. Moving from the town squares, where state and ecclesiastical officials orchestrated their public spectacles in favor of the monarchy, to the theaters, where the French used Tartuffe to mock the restored monarch and the church, this cultural history of the Restoration offers a rich and colorful portrait of a period in which critical legacies of the revolutionary period were played out and cemented. While most historians have characterized the Restoration as a period of reaction and reversal, Kroen offers convincing evidence that the Restoration was a critical bridge between the emerging practices of the Old Regime, the Revolution, and the post-1830 politics of protest. She re-creates the atmosphere of Restoration France and at the same time brings major nineteenth-century themes into focus: memory and commemoration, public and private spheres, politics and religion, anticlericalism, and the formation of democratic ideologies and practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92438-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Staging Monarchy in a Postrevolutionary World
    (pp. 1-20)

    There may be nothing particularly new or radical about treating the writing of history as a sort of “staging” or history itself as theater.¹ But for the French Restoration the theatrical metaphor is not merely useful or suggestive as an approach to history; it holds the key to making sense of this fifteen-year period and to explaining its central place in the emergence of a modern democratic political culture in France. The theater stands at the heart of my interpretation of early nineteenth-century France, and at center stage is one particular play: Molière’s seventeenth-century comedyTartuffe.

    Two cartons of police...


    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 21-38)

      The main action of “Politics as Theater” takes place in the fifteen years of the Bourbon Restoration, and the leading roles are played by representatives of the church and state who, in different ways, set about the difficult, and ultimately impossible, task of reasserting the age-old legitimacy of the monarchy in France. Yet before we enter the town squares and churches where these officials represented monarchical authority to the people of France between 1815 and 1830, or make sense of the struggles which erupted around their ceremonies, we need to step back and take a longer view of the whole...

    • CHAPTER ONE The “Counterrevolutionary” State and the Politics of Oubli (Forgetting)
      (pp. 39-75)

      On the 17th of June in 1816 in Yvetot, a small city in the north of France, the subprefect organized a public ceremony in honor of the marriage of the king’s nephew, the duc de Berry. The festivities of the day began in the church, where a mass was said in honor of the royal wedding. After the mass, those assembled were escorted by the local National Guard to the city hall, in front of which the subprefect made a long speech explaining the next part of the day’s ceremony: the destruction by burning of “sinister emblems of revolutionary times”...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Missionaries: Expiation and the Resacralization of the King’s Two Bodies
      (pp. 76-108)

      In 1820, between the 2nd of January, when a procession featuring 3,000pénitentsmarked the opening of a mission in Marseilles, and the 27th of February, when an even more extravagant procession and ceremony marked its close, the inhabitants of Marseilles were invited to participate in a religious revival.¹ Led by eighteen clergymen from the national Missionaries of France, with Charles de Forbin-Janson at their head and five missionaries from a regional society, the revival was made possible by the assistance of local clergymen, urged on by the vociferous support of the archbishop of Aix. Instead of the usual commercial...

    • CHAPTER THREE Competing Commemorations: The Problem of Performing Monarchy
      (pp. 109-154)

      All over France civil officials responded with alarm to the missionaries and wrote to their superiors in Paris for guidance and assistance about how best to contain the disorder engendered by their national revival. Literally thousands of letters were exchanged between local civil administrators and their superiors in Paris about the critical question articulated most clearly by the mayor of Toulouse, who in 1818 asked the minister of the interior:

      Mustn’t one take away from the missionaries the possibility of becoming the arbiters of France’s future? Is it prudent to let a handful of men who could be misguided by...


    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 155-160)

      The preceding chapters integrate the Restoration into the long history in which the church and state conspired and competed to represent authority in a monarchical mode, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the revolutionary events of 1789–1815. Although the missionaries and the regime responded differently to the dilemmas presented by the twenty-five-year “ceremonial interregnum,” when monarchy did not rule in France, both were guided by the imperative of counterrevolution; in both cases this imperative produced largescale national campaigns and spectacles which directly transposed the struggles of the revolutionary period to the “counterrevolutionary” Restoration. The next three chapters...

    • CHAPTER FOUR “Practicing” Politics in an Age of Counterrevolution
      (pp. 161-201)

      According to the terms laid out in the Charter, the vast majority of French citizens were officially excluded from the practice of politics during the Restoration. Suffrage was limited to one in 360 men; the right to hold office was even more restricted. Even the municipal councils, which had existed before the Revolution as institutions that gave a broader range of citizens some say in local politics, were between 1815 and 1830 replaced by appointed councils whose power was greatly curtailed.¹ Freedom of expression, freedom to meet in public, and to express one’s views were all officially restricted during the...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Popular Anticlericalism: Defining the Sacred in Postrevolutionary France
      (pp. 202-228)

      It is no doubt true, as Mona Ozouf has argued, that the Revolution of 1789 marked the dawn of a new era, when the “transfer of sacrality onto political and social values was accomplished,” binding together rights, liberty, and the fatherland as the foundation for “a new legitimacy and a hitherto inviolate patrimony.”¹ Yet it is also true that the cultural revolution of this period, epitomized by the festivals of the French Revolution and the symbols and rites of the new secular nation, was not an unqualified success; for as Ozouf has also argued, the continued commitment of the French...

    • CHAPTER SIX Tartufferie
      (pp. 229-284)

      On the 18th of April 1825, the theatergoers of Rouen thronged to the Theater of the Arts to seeTartuffe. Upon arrival at the theater they learned—from a banner stretched across the original publicity poster forTartuffe—that another play would be performed due to the indisposition of one of the actors. Inside the theater, rumors began to circulate that none of the actors was “indisposed,” but that the play had been banned directly by either the local archbishop, Le Croy, or his vicargeneral, Le Sur. Unpopular for their recent pastoral letter, instituting a severe religious regime in the...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 285-306)

    My restaging of the Restoration sheds new light on the Revolution of 1830 and the July Monarchy which it brought to power. Like the Restoration, although for different reasons, the Revolution of 1830 has been understudied by comparison with the Revolution of 1848. For a long time, the Three Glorious Days, which successfully and rapidly exchanged the Bourbon King Charles X for the Orleanist King Louis-Philippe, have been treated primarily as a Parisian phenomenon, which could be explained by the political events immediately preceding July 1830, and which had minimal long-term political consequences. Charles X’s July Ordinances, which signaled a...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 307-374)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 375-386)
  11. Index
    (pp. 387-394)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 395-397)