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Theatre and Governance in Britain, 1500–1900
Democracy, Disorder and the State


  • Author: Tony Fisher, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Date Published: May 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316633311

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About the Authors
  • This book begins with a simple observation - that just as the theatre resurfaced during the late Renaissance, so too government as we understand it today also began to appear. Their mutually entwining history was to have a profound influence on the development of the modern British stage. This volume proposes a new reading of theatre's relation to the public sphere. Employing a series of historical case studies drawn from the London theatre, Tony Fisher shows why the stage was of such great concern to government by offering close readings of well-known religious, moral, political, economic and legal disputes over the role, purpose and function of the stage in the 'well-ordered society'. In framing these disputes in relation to what Michel Foucault called the emerging 'art of government', this book draws out - for the first time - a full genealogy of the governmental 'discourse on the theatre'.

    • Proposes a new reading of well-known controversies over the social history of the stage, allowing a better understanding of the complex interplay between theatre, politics, economics and government
    • Presents a theoretical as well as historical methodology, using the tools of 'discourse analysis' and concept of 'governmentality' developed by Michel Foucault
    • Offers a critical, systematic and historically-grounded reappraisal of the 'anti-theatrical prejudice' proposed by Jonah Barish, revealing that prejudice targeted 'common' tastes generally, rather than theatre as such
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this masterful and original study, Fisher combines philosophical reflection, discourse analysis and substantial archival research to produce a new way of considering the symbiotic relationship between state and theatre. While focused on English theatre history between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, its approach could and should be applied with profit to other countries as well.' Christopher Balme, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316633311
    • length: 292 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. The discourses of theatre and governance
    Part I. Origins of the Discourse on Theatre:
    1. The theatre of the multitude
    2. Revolts of conduct on the Restoration stage
    Part II. Theatre and its Publics:
    3. Theatrocracy and the public sphere
    4. The Beggar's Opera and the criminal picturesque
    5. The deontic stage in the eighteenth century: George Lillo's The London Merchant
    Part III. Theatre in the Age of Reform:
    6. The governmentalisation of the stage
    7. The theatre dispositif of the late-nineteenth century.

  • Author

    Tony Fisher, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
    Tony Fisher is a Reader in Theatre and Philosophy at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, where he is Associate Director of Research (Research Degrees). He has published a number of journal articles in both theatre and philosophy, and he is the co-editor of books including Performing Antagonism: Theatre, Performance and Radical Democracy (2016) and Theatre, Performance, Foucault! (forthcoming).

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