Représentations du théâtre russe dans la presse francophone des Lumières

Carole Chapin


In the eighteenth century, journals carried information and promoted literary productions. They also acted as conduits for the reception of foreign cultures: thus, they show the ambiguities of Franco-Russian cultural relations. They acted as a medium that facilitated debates and polemics. This phenomenon is particularly interesting when the journalists discussed theatre, because this art form can act as a political and social instrument. Interest in the Russian theatre in French-speaking periodicals in the eighteenth century was not only a sign of greater interest in ‘Russian subjects’, but also formed part of a general reflection about contemporary drama. This trend was characterized by more openness towards foreign cultures. During this period of theoretical questioning, national theatre cultures tended to strengthen their specificities, while also using borrowings and translations from others theatres. The interest of French theatre aficionados for Russian theatre is well-known, as is the enthusiasm of the purveyors of Russian theatre for French theatre. However, the choice of words used to describe Russian theatre in the Francophone press—whether they be of praise or of criticism—can hide other goals, such as showing the greatness of Catherine II’s government or insisting on the role of the French model in Russia’s cultural development.

In this paper, a corpus of selected articles is used to show several practices and issues o pertaining to the topic of the Russian theatre in the Francophone press. We question several possible political and aesthetic consequences of the image of Russia, which were spread by French-speaking periodicals in Europe. Furthermore, we try to analyze the role played by the specific discourse used by the periodicals in order to demonstrate its importance for researchers working on eighteenth-century European theatre and cultural relations.


théâtre ; Russie ; XVIIIe siècle ; périodiques ; critique ; politique culturelle


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ISSN: 2333-1658