Aestheticizing Cultural Policy in France, 1789-1815

University of Warwick

Saturday 1st July & Sunday 2nd July 2017 (preceded by a melodrama workshop Friday 30th June)

The period from 1789 to Napoleon’s second abdication in 1815 is one marked by profound transformation in all domains, including the arts – not least because the role of the state in cultural production was a matter of key concern for both the Revolutionaries and the Imperial administration. The last two decades have a seen a resurgence of interest in revolutionary culture, producing valuable insights into spectatorship, participation, propaganda, symbolism and transparency. This conference seeks to extend these approaches to the Napoleonic period, challenging the narrative of Imperial control by re-examining the way that creative agents and institutions engaged with and negotiated around cultural policies.

Studies of theatre at the time, for example, often make much of regulations and edicts (the 1791 freedom of the theatres law or the 1806/1807 imperial decrees) but there is ample evidence that theatrical practice, especially in the provinces, did not always comply with the state’s desire to impose control. Is this also the case for other artistic production such as music, painting, or literature? This conference will focus in detail on the discrepancies between the legislation, production and reception of literary and artistic works, in order to establish continuities and discontinuities in the actions of the various political regimes – and the reactions of creative agents – at a time of considerable social and political upheaval.

We welcome paper proposals on the following themes

  • aesthetics
  • genre
  • the emergence of a new public
  • the book trade
  • the creation of institutions
  • the abolition of privilege
  • censorship and surveillance
  • theatre reform
  • prizes
  • festivals
  • monuments
  • processes of adaptation
  • ideas of authorship

Abstracts (max. 300 words) for 20-minute papers should be sent, with a short biography, to by 15 January 2017.  The conference languages will be English and French. For more information please contact the conference organiser .

The conference is organised and supported by the AHRC-funded research project French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era based at the University of Warwick.