Examining the French stage during the Enlightenment and French Revolution

The MIT Press recently published “Databases, Revenues and Repertory: The French Stage Online, 1680-1793,” an innovative collection of original essays that explore an important initiative in the digital humanities, the Comédie-Française Registers Project (CFRP). This international online collaboration consists of high-resolution reproductions of the detailed daily box office receipts for the Comédie-Française theater troupe in Paris from 1680 to 1793, as well as visualization tools that allow users to explore the box office data.

“Databases, Revenues and Repertory” takes advantage of this unique online archive to explore programming decisions made by the royal troupe in Paris during the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. How did politics, economics, and social conflict shape the troupe’s repertory and impact its finances? Was the theater a space for critical discussion of public issues, or a place to seek escape from the uncertainties of the world outside the playhouse walls?

“Thanks to the MIT Press, we are very pleased to be able to offer this work in an exclusively online, open-access, bilingual format,” says Jeffrey S. Ravel, co-editor and professor of history at MIT.

“The PubPub platform will allow readers to leave comments and observations, thereby creating an ongoing conversation among authors and readers,” adds co-editor Sylvaine Guyot, professor of French literature and theater at Harvard University. “We see this style of enhanced exchange as essential to the future of humanities scholarship, which will increasingly engage audiences beyond the academy in conversations that bring the past, present, and future into dialogue with each other.” 

Contributors to the volume include:

  • Christian Biet, University of Paris Nanterre
  • Juliette Cherbuliez, University of Minnesota
  • Lauren R. Clay, Vanderbilt University
  • Logan J. Connors, University of Miami
  • Dan Edelstein, Stanford University
  • Pierre Frantz, Sorbonne University
  • Sylvaine Guyot, Harvard University
  • Sara Harvey, University of Victoria
  • Thomas M. Luckett, Portland State University
  • Anne E. C. McCants, MIT
  • Derek Miller, Harvard University
  • Jeffrey N. Peters, University of Kentucky
  • Jeffrey S. Ravel, MIT
  • Agathe Sanjuan, Bibliothèque-Musée de la Comédie-Française
  • François Velde, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
  • William Weber, California State University, Long Beach

Several essays in the volume explore the long-term trends in box office receipts and repertory decisions across the century, while others focus on the critical years around 1760, when the influence of enlightened ideals and authors made itself felt on the French capital’s premier stage. Other contributions consider the uses of digital humanities methodologies in the study of French theater history and the humanities more generally.

“Databases, Revenues and Repertory” is freely available online, thanks to support from the MIT Press and a generous grant from the MIT Global Languages Section, as well as support from the MIT History faculty. Funding from the FACE Foundation-Partner University Fund has made possible English and French-language versions of all the essays in the volume.