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Katherine Astbury

Between October 2013 and July 2017 I ran an AHRC-funded project on French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era. This project involves a team of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers working on linking close textual readings to larger cultural, social and political issues. As one of the outcomes, I am currently working on a monograph on theatre during the One Hundred Days, that is to say the period of Napoleon's return to power in 1815. In 2016-17 I had AHRC follow-on funding for a project on Staging Napoleonic Theatre which involved working with the Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond, North Yorkshire to put on a performance of Pixerécourt's La Forteresse du Danube and with English Heritage at Portchester Castle to stage a melodrama the Napoleonic prisoners wrote while incarcerated there: Roseliska ou amour, haine et vengeance. The dress rehearsal was filmed and can be seen here.

In 2012 I published a monograph on 'non-political' fiction of the 1790s as a response to the trauma of the Revolution (Narrative Responses to the trauma of the French Revolution (Oxford, Legenda, 2012)). The work for this was funded by a British Academy Small Grant and an AHRC matching leave grant. The research has shown how the apparent continuity of Ancien Régime tropes, settings and characters is in fact an indication of writers' traumatised response to the Revolution. Significantly, it is the writers who experience emigration and who would go on to be the avant-garde of the Romantic movement in France who succeed in working through their responses to the Revolution, while lesser writers remain trapped in the repetitive cycle of reliving the trauma without fully acknowledging the memories.

My first book on The Moral Tale in France and Germany 1750-1789, examining the development of short fiction in the two countries in the years leading up to the French Revolution, was published by the Voltaire Foundation as SVEC 2002:7. Much of my work is centred on questions of literary history and the thorny problem of literary influence.

Theatre History Podcast #43

Theatre History Podcast #43

Being Melodramatic with the Staging Napoleonic Theatre Project

14 August 2017

The Staging Napoleonic Theatre project is working to study and stage early examples of melodrama, a theatrical genre that was widely popular in the nineteenth century.​