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Un mariage magnétique : Beaumarchais, Mesmer et un nouveau mode de discours dans le Paris prérévolutionnaire
Title in English
A magnetic marriage : Beaumarchais, Mesmer and a new mode of discourse in the pre-revolutionary Paris
Cara Lynne Lowry
May 9, 2012
Department or Program
On April 27, 1784 Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ anticipated la Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro made its theatrical debut. By the end of the year, it would enjoy an historic run of 63 performances and inspire a flood of responding pamphlets and plays, the majority of which offer some combination of parody, continuation or critique of the original. Three of them bring Figaro into direct contact with another of the decade’s major fads, Franz Anton Mesmer’s animal magnetism. An examination of the literary juxtaposition of these two seemingly disparate sensations and the texts in which it occurs reveals an undeniable link between this ephemeral literature and the sociohistorical circumstances of 1780s Paris: each text exists as a concrete example of a revolutionary mode of public discourse. In indicating that the Figaro and Mesmer phenomena belonged to a larger trend of literary and cultural exchange, the texts signal that these crazes were intrinsically linked to significant transformations taking place at the heart of French literary society on the eve of the Revolution.