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"Consuming the Actress" Call for papers for a special issue of European Drama and Performance Studies (Classiques Garnier) n°5

(c) George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress) wikicommons
(c) George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress) wikicommons
In the second part of the nineteenth century new shows developed across Europe such as the “Pièces à femmes” in France (Piana[2], Yon[3]) and the Victorian Burlesques in Great Britain (Stedman[4], Davis[5], Marshall[6]). In the 1860s they achieved wide popularity by being adapted on the US stage through the Variety show (Allen[7]) and lasted as a model of comic and sensual entertainment beyond the first part of the twentieth century (Shteir[8], Zeidman[9], Briggeman[10]). Music Halls and Cabarets went against common decency to attract new consumers, inspiring the actress stereotype in novels (Jouanny[11], Gengembre[12]) and creating a link between disorder, hysteria and female gender (Nesci[13],). Provocative gestures, sensual appeal on stage, teasing and obscene dances, particular ways of dressing and subversive staging impacted upon and interacted with consumption of goods, material culture, national trends and ideological changes during a period of time which was characterized by the rise of the Newspapers Era (Therenty[14], Vaillant[15]) and Media culture (Pinson[16]); cultural transfers within Europe (Charle[17], Yon[18]) and between Europe and the United States; and which ended up with the culmination of Modernism and the women emancipation movement.

This special issue examines the theatrical and cinematographic responses given by the artists and the Industry to audiences aiming to socialize by slumming it in popular districts or places, from the mid-nineteenth century (first music-halls, cabarets and later Variety theatres in Europe) to the end of the silent film era in 1927 (when The Jazz singer, the first talkie was released), especially with the use of the female body as a spectacular form of entertainment. However, the research will not study the performer as reduced to her sole body but will also explore her in a broader context, in particular the way in which she became a leading figure by fashioning society’s tastes, marketing herself and controlling her image in the media, and finally by playing a new role in society at a time when feminism was gaining an audience.

Contributions may address the following themes and should preferably focus on 20th century and/or cinema.

The female body as a selling point: teasing the audience
Featuring overnight sensations: dressing up and fashioning society’s tastes
The Actress as a marketing tool? Publicizing sex-appeal and Glamour
Cultural transfers and new openings: the Actress and her audiences
Deconstructing and reshaping the “Actress” myth: avant-garde and leading figures
Technologie(s) and the actress

Abstracts, in French or English (around 300 words) due for 15 January 2014 to be sent to Sabine Chaouche ( and to Clara Sadoun-Edouard (
Papers, in French or English (6.500 words maximum) due for 15 December 2014.


[1] 1843 first cabaret in France; 1852 first music hall in GB; first variety theatre in the UK: 1885; first “revue” in France such as the Folies Bergères in 1869.

[2] Romain Piana, « "Pièces à spectacle" et "Pièces à femmes" : féeries, revues et "délassements comique" », in Les Spectacles sous le Second Empire, J.-C. Yon (ed), (Paris : Armand Colin, 2010), 328-339.

[3] Jean-Claude Yon, Le Second Empire, politique, société, culture, (Paris : Armand Colin, coll. U, 2004), 2e édition revue et augmentée, 2012, Une histoire du théâtre à Paris de la Révolution à la Grande Guerre, (Paris : Aubier, 2012), Histoire culturelle de la France au XIXe siècle, (Paris : Armand Colin, coll. U, 2010)

[4] Jane Stedman, W. S. Gilbert: A Classic Victorian and His Theatre (Oxford, OUP, 1996).

[5] Tracy Davis, The Performing Century: Nineteenth-Century Theatres History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

[6] Gail Marshall, Actresses on the Victorian Stage: Feminine Performance and the Galatea Myth (Cambridge University Press, 1998; paperback edition 2006)

[7] Robert G. Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture (Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1991).

[8] Rachel Stheir, Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

[9] Irving, Zeidman, The American Burlesque Show. (Hawthorn Books, Inc 1967).

[10] Jane, Briggeman, Burlesque: A Living History (BearManor Media, 2009).

[11] Sylvie Jouanny, L’Actrice et ses doubles. Figures et représentations de la femme de spectacle à la fin du XIXe siècle (Geneva : Droz, coll. « Histoire des idées et critique littéraire », 2002).

[12] Gérard Gengembre, « L’Empire de la chair, ou le théâtre du sexe dans le roman zolien », in Les Spectacles sous le Second Empire, J.-C. Yon (ed), (Paris : Armand Colin, 2010), 290-304.

[13] Catherine Nesci, Corps/Décors: Femmes, Orgie, Parodie. (co-edit with Gretchen Van Slyke and Gerald Prince). (Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999).

[14] Marie-Eve Thérenty, La Littérature au quotidien. Poétiques journalistiques au dix-neuvième siècle (Paris : Seuil, 2007).

[15] Dominique Kalifa, Philippe Régnier, Marie-Eve Thérenty, Alain Vaillant (ed.), La Civilisation du journal. Histoire culturelle et littéraire de la presse au XIXe siècle (Paris : Nouveau Monde éditions, 2012) ; Marie-Eve Thérenty et Alain Vaillant (dir), Presse et plumes. Journalisme et littérature au XIXe siècle (Paris : éditions du nouveau monde, 2004).

[16] Guillaume Pinson, L’Imaginaire médiatique. Histoire et fiction du journal au XIXe siècle (Paris : Classiques Garnier, coll. « Études romantiques et dix-neuviémistes », no 33, 2013); « L’imaginaire médiatique. Réflexions sur les représentations du journalisme au XIXe siècle », in Le littéraire en régime journalistique, Contexte, Paul Aron et Vanessa Gemis (ed.), 11, 2012.

[17] Christophe Charle, Théâtres en capitales. Naissance de la société du spectacle à Paris, Berlin, Londres et Vienne (Paris: Albin Michel, 2008).

[18] Jean-Claude Yon, Le Théâtre français à l’étranger au XIXe siècle. Histoire d’une suprématie culturelle, (Paris : Nouveau Monde Editions, 2008).

Sabine Chaouche


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