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

Fisher, Tony (2017) Theatre and Governance in Britain, 1500-1900: Democracy, Disorder and the State. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9781107182158


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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