Literary Sociability and Literary Property in France, 1775-1793by Gregory S. Brown
Pub. Date: 05/01/2006
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
The first full-length, scholarly study of the SociÃ©tÃ© des auteurs dramatiques (SAD), this book describes the form, the meaning, the achievements, and the failures of the first professional association for creative writers in European history. Founded by the well-known playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais in 1777 under the… See more details below
The first full-length, scholarly study of the SociÃ©tÃ© des auteurs dramatiques (SAD), this book describes the form, the meaning, the achievements, and the failures of the first professional association for creative writers in European history. Founded by the well-known playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais in 1777 under the protection of prominent aristocrats at the court of King Louis XVI, the SAD comprised the playwrights most closely associated with the royal theater of the kingdom, the Comédie Française. Its two dozen members discussed and worked to advance both their collective interests under the royal theater regulations (which governed such issues of literary property, creative control, and remuneration) and to promote their public image as playwrights and men of letters more broadlywhile at the same time competing with each other, sometimes intensely, for control over that image. Gregory Brown traces the story of the SAD from its conception in the mid-1770s through to the French Revolution, exploring first the Society's founding in 1777, then its trajectory until its dissolution at the end of 1780, and finally discusses a revival of the group during the Revolution. In each chapter, Brown analyzes the strategic efforts of Beaumarchais and his associates, to shape regulations and legislation concerning droits d'auteur (authorial remuneration and literary property) and their efforts to reshape the public status and identity of playwrights through correspondence, print and face-to-face encounters with the troupe of the Comédie Française, the theater's aristocratic supervisors at court, its lawyers and government administrators, its commercial publics, and other, authors. Brown argues against previous treatments of the SAD, which have presented it as a spontaneous, dissident challenge to constituted social and political authority under the Old Regime. He demonstrates instead how the SAD emerged from within existing lines of authority in eighteenth-century France, at the intersection of a reforming court, a monopolistic commercial theater, and playwrights anxious about their status and identity as men of letters. Through extensive archival research, he explores how royal power interacted with civil society in the governance of a theater that served the court under royal patronage while it also maintained a commercial monopoly in Paris. In this way, Brown provides a close-up view of how state politics impacted on cultural life in the Age of Enlightenment. He offers readers a case study of intellectual sociability in the Republic of Letters, a little-known chapter in the life of Beaumarchais, and an innovative, historical approach to one of the crucial cultural developments of the periodthe emergence of intellectual property amidst the transition from a patron-client to a market-driven system of authorship.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction: Men of letters and literary sociability in 18th-century France; An association of men of letters: the formation of the Society of Dramatic Authors; Beaumarchais at court: on the civility and cultural power of Gens de lettres; Playwrights, print and publicity: the success and failure of the SAD in 1780; Literary sociability and the Revolution: social interests, politics and literary property, July 1789-January 1791; From liberty to patriotism; Conclusion: copyright, community and enlightenment; Select bibliography; Index.
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