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February 3, 2015
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v2.1 Reference

Revolutionary Acts

Theater, Democracy, and the French Revolution

In Revolutionary Acts Susan Maslan shows how theater played a pivotal role in Revolutionary France, positioning the theatrical stage as a battleground on which Parisian audiences, actors and playwrights, and political authorities fought to shape the newly emerging democracy.

Examining the production, performance, and reception of Parisian plays between 1789 and 1794, Maslan sheds new light on two issues central to the political cultures of Paris and France: the nature of political representation—specifically the problematic relationship between direct democracy and representative democracy—and the correlative problem of transparency and its relation to theatricality.

While traditional scholarship emphasizes the influence of newspapers and books on the French Revolution, Maslan's erudite analysis reveals the rich and powerful impact of theater on France's fledgling democracy.

About the Author

Susan Maslan is an associate professor of French at the University of California–Berkeley.


Compelling and impeccably argued. The book provides a deeply integrated analysis of theatre and revolutionary political culture; it is one of the most successful studies to emerge from this important historiographical trend. Maslan’s admirable work furthers our understanding of the theatre’s role at one of the most important junctures in the history of democracy.

- Theatre Journal

In its bold and compelling arguments and its subtle textual analyses, Maslan's study is one of the most important and innovative books on revolutionary theater published in recent years. It makes an important contribution not only to the study of literature but also to the understanding of the history and political culture of the period.

- Brecht Yearbook

Revolutionary Acts is most successful as a series of creative, highly historicized... readings of the performances and reception of a handful of plays from 1780 to 1795.

- Jeffrey Ravel - Journal of Modern History

Maslan's thought-provoking book makes a distinctive contribution to the understanding of the literary and cultural history of the French Revolution.

- Modern Language Review

Original and thoughtful work... offers great originality, creativity, thoughtfulness and erudition.

- H-France

Ambitious, insightful, and engaging study.

- Thomas Wynn - French Studies


Maslan's work is concerned with three major interrelated themes: the tension between representative and direct democracy, antitheatricalism, and surveillance as a means of guarding and preserving the Republic. These concerns take her study far beyond the specific matter of the theatre of the French Revolution, into matters of central importance in European cultural and political history. The scope and depth of Maslan's work and the original critical insight that she brings makes this an important contribution to the cultural study of early modern France and the history of the French theatre.

- Marvin Carlson, City University of New York

A thoughtful and sophisticated study that promises to join an extremely influential body of work on the political culture of the French Revolution which, like Lynn Hunt's Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution and Mona Ozouf's Festivals and the French Revolution, has had a significant impact across disciplinary and chronological boundaries.

- Laura Mason, University of Georgia
Johns Hopkins University Press
Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
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