Smoothly blending performance theory, literary analysis, and historical insights, Cecilia Feilla explores the mutually dependent discourses of feeling and politics and their impact on the theatre and theatre audiences during the French Revolution. Remarkably, the most frequently performed and popular plays from 1789 to 1799 were not the political action pieces that have been the subject of much literary and historical criticism, but rather sentimental dramas and comedies, many of which originated on the stages of the Old Regime. Feilla suggests that theatre provided an important bridge from affective communities of sentimentality to active political communities of the nation, arguing that the performance of virtue on stage served to foster the passage from private emotion to public virtue and allowed groups such as women, children, and the poor who were excluded from direct political participation to imagine a new and inclusive social and political structure. Providing close readings of texts by, among others, Denis Diderot, Collot d'Herbois, and Voltaire, Feilla maps the ways in which continuities and innovations in the theatre from 1760 to 1800 set the stage for the nineteenth century. Her book revitalizes and enriches our understanding of the significance of sentimental drama, showing that it was central to the way that drama both shaped and was shaped by political culture.
’This is a highly informative work that places Revolutionary theatre at the centre of political and cultural developments. While it will be of value to anyone with an interest in the plays under discussion, it should be especially compelling to those working in the area of eighteenth-century theatre, culture, and politics.’ Modern Language Review 'Feilla’s book is remarkably well-documented. The author has been scrupulous in her reading of the literature and offers genuinely original insights on the sentimental character of a corpus that has largely been ignored.' H-France Review ’...this is a welcome addition to a growing literature on the culture of the French Revolution and offers a useful corrective to excessively political readings of its theatre. It is sure to be of vital interest to all those interested in the history of the emotions, in Revolutionary and eighteenth-century culture, and in theatre history.’ French Studies '... Feilla sheds fresh light upon a range of texts and practices that critics have tended to pass over. ... recommended to those interested in Revolutionary theater, eighteenth-century popular culture and politics, and the history of the emotions more generally.' Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 'Overall this is an ambitious, wide-ranging and thought-provoking monograph which is set to become required reading for everyone working on cultural production of the Revolutionary decade and the early nineteenth century.' BARS Review 'This insightful, articulate study illustrates the impact that theatrical esthetics had upon the French Revolution’s overarching goal of transforming society. Drawing upon statistical data of Parisian theater repertories, performance studies, affect theory, and the forms and functions of sentimentality, Feilla showcases the literary vitality of a largely forgotten body of plays and theatrical writings that transformed Enlightenment ideals into nineteenth-century paradigms. ... The Sent