The Melodramatic Thread

The Melodramatic Thread

Spectacle and Political Culture in Modern France
James R. Lehning
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/15/2007
Format: paper 192 pages
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21910-7
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In France, both political culture and theatrical performances have drawn upon melodrama. This “melodramatic thread” helped weave the country’s political life as it moved from monarchy to democracy. By examining the relationship between public ceremonies and theatrical performance, James R. Lehning sheds light on democratization in modern France. He explores the extent to which the dramatic forms were present in the public performance of political power. By concentrating on the Republic and the Revolution and on theatrical performance, Lehning affirms the importance of examining the performative aspects of French political culture for understanding the political differences that have marked France in the years since 1789.

Author Bio

James R. Lehning is Professor of History at The University of Utah and author of To Be a Citizen: The Political Culture of the Early French Third Republic and Peasant and French: Cultural Contact in Rural France during the Nineteenth Century.


"In this thoroughly researched and persuasive book, Lehning (history, Univ. of Utah) provides a fascinating reading of public performances in modern France. . . . This is an important contribution to the study of French culture and the democratization process. . . . Essential." —Choice

"Lehning’s application of the themes of melodrama to French political culture offers new insights into French history. His style is livelyclear, and highly readable." —Venita Datta, Wellesley College

"Short books on large subjects are often stimulating to read and critique, and Lehning's falls into that category." —Sarah Maza, Northwestern University, JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY , Vol. 81.3 Sept. 2009

"The analyses in this book make a real contribution to debates about the ways in which art, particularly popular art, and politics interact; how politics itself is theatrical in the French case; and the role of ritual in politics and the function of politics as ritual and ceremony." —John Gaffney, Aston University,
European History Quarterly , Vol. 40 No.3 2010

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Varieties of Performance in Nineteenth-Century Paris
3. Boulevard Spectacles of the Third Republic
4. Spectacles of Light and Darkness between the World Wars
5. Commercial Spectacles in Postwar Paris
6. Conclusion
Selected Bibliography