Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Le roi sublime. Overwhelming Politics and Performance under Louis XIV

This project will clarify how these concepts operated in theoretical writings on performance ,this broadened conceptual framework will not only give us a clear view on how sublime effects in performance were theorized, it will also provide us a concrete apparatus to understand the cultural and political agency of specific performances.

Duration
2013 - 2017
Contact
Funding
ERC Starting Grant ERC Starting Grant

In the last decades, several studies pointed out how in their tragedies Corneille and Racine were (directly or indirectly) inspired by ps.-Longinus On the sublime to create an overwhelming effect. Due to the rhetorical nature of the treatise, scholarly attention is almost exclusively paid to the drama text. Whereas the importance of Corneille’s and Racine’s tragedies for the dissemination and instrumentalization of the sublime is now widely acknowledged, this project will have a closer look at the importance of the sublime for the visual, auditory and spectacular qualities of the theatre performance and related performances. Performance culture under Louis XIV is renowned for its spectacular abundance, its use of astonishing machinery and stage effects and its general pump and circumstances to impress and overwhelm the viewer and to contribute to the establishment of absolutist power. 

To study the role of the sublime in seventeenth-century French performances, it is necessary to broaden our understanding of the sublime and to relate it to neighbouring concepts such as le merveilleuxenthusiasmosgrandeur and éclat. This project will clarify how these concepts operated in theoretical writings on performance such as d’ Aubignac’s Pratique du Théâtre (1657), de Pure’s Idée des spectacles anciens et nouveaux (1668) and Ménestrier’s Traité des tournois, ioustes, carroussels, et autres spectacles publics (1669) and his Des representations en musique anciennes et modernes (1681). This broadened conceptual framework will not only give us a clear view on how sublime effects in performance were theorized, it will also provide us a concrete apparatus to understand the cultural and political agency of specific performances. In a series of case studies that are devoted to theatrical performances such as pièces à machines or tragedies en musique and to cultural performances such as inauguration rituals, wedding festivities, burial ceremonies, and strategies of warfare, this project wants to shed a new light on how spectacular culture under Louis XIV drew on performative strategies of the sublime and put this in service of the creation and affirmation of absolutist power.

Connection with other research

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