Marginalised Voices and Figures in French Festival Culture, 1500–1800

Online (King's College London), April 24, 2021 - April 25, 2021

Research on early modern French festival culture has typically focused on traditional centres of power like the royal court, and has either highlighted the contributions of well-known poets, painters, and dance masters or concentrated on the responses of elite spectators like foreign diplomats, princes, and nobles. Our conference instead seeks to shift the focus towards marginalised voices and figures, among them:

– Lesser-known musicians, choreographers, poets, and artists who have been overlooked in conventional histories of music, literature, and the arts, namely because they do not conform to narratives of great composers/musicians, poets, and artists, despite being critical to the production and performance of French festivals.

– Non-elite people, such as artisans and merchants, who were crucial to the production of festivals, or members from the urban population, who were regularly part of audiences for civic festivities in France, such as ceremonial entries and equestrian carrousels.

– ‘Subaltern’ people, among them women, ethnic and confessional minorities, queer audiences, and colonial populations, who were often involved in the production and performance of French festivals or attended them in person.

Our conference is interested in both what French festival culture during the period 1500–1800 reveals about these figures, and what this investigation tells us about early modern society on a more global level. What insights does the non-elite or subaltern status of festival contributors offer into early modern perceptions of the arts? What do French festivals tell us about other groups who were generally excluded or oppressed in society? How should we understand the frequent tension between emphasising and erasing the foreign ‘other’ (like the participation of colonial subjects, the use of blackface for racial stereotyping, or the cultural appropriation of valuable colonial objects, etc.)?

Conference Programme

Saturday 24 April

12:20: Start and Welcome
12:30-14:00: Women and Crowds
Chair: Marie-Claude Canova Green
Kathleen Loysen, ‘Performing Women’s Voices in Sixteenth-Century Rouen: The Plaisant quaquet resjuyssance des femmes and Pierre Le Pardonneur’
Benoit Bolduc, ‘Listening to the Crowd at the Carrousel de la Place Royale (1612)’
Sean Heath, ‘“I’ve only finished what M. the abbé started”: Sexual harassment during celebrations of the fête du roi in 1790’
14:00-15:00: Lunch Break
15:00-17:00: Muslims, Jews and Resistance
Chair: Margaret McGowan
Rose Pruiksma, ‘Louis XIII and representations of Islam in the Grand bal de la Douairière de Billebahaut: negotiating identity and difference in early seventeenth-century France’
Dorothy Noyes, ‘Muslim, Mouth, and Mutilation: Figuring the Province in the Théâtre de Béziers,1610-1660’
Eric Johnson, ‘“Sons of the Serving Maid”: The Jews of Papal Avignon in Early Modern Religious Rituals’
Erik J. Hadley, ‘Ritual Resistance: Festival Conflicts in Francophone Belgium during the French
17:00-17:30: Tea Break
17:30-18:30: First Keynote
Chair: Alexander Robinson
Kate van Orden, ‘Stagings of Empire in French Entries and Court Ballet, 1550-1626: Connected
18:30: Virtual Drinks (Platform TBD)

Sunday 25 April

12:30-13:30: Second Keynote
Chair: Bram van Leuveren
Julia Prest, ‘Marginalised People and Public Theatre Festivals in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue’
13:30-14:30: Lunch Break
14:30-16:00: Merchants and Artisans
Chair: Marc W. S. Jaffré
Eva van Kemenade, ‘Demarginalising Artisan Street Theatre in Renaissance Lyon: Louis Garon and Lest Plaisants devis (1568-1601) and Colloque des trois supposts du Seigneur de la Coquille (1610)’
Alison Calhoun, ‘Waterworks at Versailles’ First Festivals: Royal Plumbers as Cartesian Fountaineers’
Matthew Gin, ‘Working Behind the Scenes: Artisanal Labor and the Production of Pageant Décor in Eighteenth-Century Paris’
16:00-16:30: Tea Break
16:30-18:00: Performance and the Other
Chair: Jonathan Spangler
Daniel J. Ruppel, ‘Global Imaginaries and Elephantine Artifice: Resituating “Bresil” in Henri II’s 1550 Royal Entry into Rouen’
Michael Meere, ‘Provincial Theatre and Traveling Companies: Women on Stage in Bourges, 1607’
Michael Harrigan, ‘Music and Singing in the Early French Caribbean’
18:00-18:30: Conclusion and Close of Conference
Our twitter handle is @marginalisedvo1.


Marc W. S. Jaffré (University of St Andrews)
Bram van Leuveren (University of Groningen)
Alexander Robinson (King’s College London)
This event is generously supported by the Royal Musical Association, Music & Letters, The Society for the Study of French History, the Royal Historical Society, and the Society for Renaissance Studies.
Marginalised Voices and Figures in French Festival Culture, 1500–1800
Location: Online (King's College London)
Start Date: April 24, 2021
Start Time: 12:20 am
End Date: April 25, 2021
End Time: 6:30 pm
Ticket Price: Free