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Reviewed by:
  • Les Mots et les choses du théâtre: France, Italie, Espagne, XVIe–XVIIe siècles d'Anne Cayeula Et Marc Vuillermoz
  • Lucy Rayfield
Les Mots et les choses du théâtre: France, Italie, Espagne, XVIe–XVIIe siècles. Sous la direction d'Anne Cayeula Et Marc Vuillermoz. (Travaux du Grand Siècle, 45.) Genève: Droz, 2017. 303 pp.

The present volume is a careful and complex interweaving of a number of critical concepts in theatre studies, examined from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives. It gathers together seventeen articles first presented in 2015 at the international conference 'Les Mots et les choses du théâtre', itself a corollary of the major project Les Idées du théâtre, which interrogates liminary dramatic material in France, Italy, and Spain across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Les Idées du théâtre has also produced an extensive online collection of theatrical paratexts (<> [accessed 4 February 2019]), widely celebrated as a valuable research tool, and the articles assembled in this volume are a testament to the possibilities presented by this project and database. Bringing together wide-ranging and lucid insights into early modern and Golden Age drama in France, Italy, and Spain, it sets out with great erudition and clarity the reciprocal relationship between 'mots' and 'choses' in theatre, also making a convincing case for greater scholarly attention to be paid to the dramatic paratext. Although the arguments proposed in this collection are dense and largely interconnected, the volume is structured into five sections, which renders it more easily accessible to the general reader and to specialists in search of precise material. The first section focuses on the dramatic author and [End Page 293] incorporates detailed studies of theatrical lexis: the term 'travail', for instance, is investigated and contextualized within dramatic culture; the power and significance of metaphor in liminary material is also considered in relation to the playwright. The second section moves on to aesthetics and dramaturgy and brings out more strongly the Foucauldian link between 'mots' and 'choses' in theatre: here, a particularly engaging article by Enrica Zanin traces frameworks of theatrical vocabulary in the earliest French, Italian, and Spanish dictionaries, drawing fascinating parallels with the reality of the practices denoted by this vocabulary. Turning to dramatic genres, the third section re-assesses the process of identifying a play with a genre and uses paratexts to explore how such classification can influence, undermine, or enhance the public understanding and reception of a comedy. The fourth section centres on actors and characters, presenting some innovative work on the often overlooked tension between author and performer; a further concern in this cluster is the French imitation of Italian comic stock types, frequently employed to political and polemical ends. The final section focuses on reception and evaluates the nature and impact of dramatic theory and the prologue in France, Italy, and Spain, also taking stock of the language of laughter and moral elevation in theatrical comic paratexts. Together these sections form a rich and productive discussion not only of theatrical practices in three countries which led the way for dramatic culture, but also of lexical, ideological, and transnational exchange across the centuries in question. This volume makes a substantial contribution to theatre studies and scholars of drama and of comparative literature will find it an exciting and insightful read.

Lucy Rayfield
Balliol College, Oxford


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pp. 293-294
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