French Revolutionary Festivals and the Invention of Tradition
In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety dispatched functionaries into small villages in the French countryside to refashion local customs of public assembly. Traditional gatherings, such as those at churches, were outlawed. Instead, officials re-routed loyalties by instructing citizens to gather under secular circumstances to communally praise the nation. They introduced elaborately conceptualized ceremonies in which the young and old would embody unity and fraternity in new mass ceremonies: Dancing, physical exchanges of symbolic objects, and group participation in just-devised celebrations formed necessary parts of solidifying the new republic.
These ceremonies demonstrate how the French Revolution conceived of the power of bodies in space as a defining element in organizing the new, post-monarchical nation. This talk will focus on two aspects of these festivals: how they embodied what Eric Hobsbawm has called “the invention of tradition” and how they demonstrate the power of live performance in the process of crafting a new social and political world.
Kimberly Jannarone is a scholar, director, dramaturg, and translator. She received her MFA and DFA from the Yale School of Drama and is currently on leave from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is Professor of Theater Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, and History of Consciousness, and where she holds the Gary D. Licker Memorial Chair.
She is the author of Artaud and His Doubles, winner of the Honorable Mention for the Joe Callaway Prize for best book in drama. She has published in journals including Theatre Journal, French Forum, Modernism/Modernity, TDR, the Chinese journal Theater Arts, and others. She won the Gerald Kahan Scholar’s Prize and Honorable Mention for the Oscar Brockett Essay Prize for essays on Artaud. Forthcoming books include Mass Performance, History, and the Invention of Tradition and the edited volume Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right (University of Michigan Press).