Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Joan E. DeJean

Abstract

This dissertation studies money in French comedy from the late Renaissance to the early eighteenth century. It examines how comic theater, by showing new forms of money, reflected and problematized concepts of value, credit, and trust at a moment when France's financial and monetary system was rapidly evolving.

The first chapter provides an overview of money in Renaissance farces and comedies, and briefly examines treatments of the subject in other European literary traditions in this time period. It shows how farces presented a variety of simple currencies, and how comedy, with its more complex portrayals, developed out of this genre. The second chapter covers the period 1600-1670, when metallic currencies began to be portrayed in more detail, and comedies began to show interrogations of social and monetary value together. Chapter three focuses on 1670-1684, when a new generation of playwrights brought paper money onto the stage where it took on a new dramatic role as bearer of value. The fourth chapter examines the years 1685-1700, an increasingly difficult time for the French economy, when paper money was manipulated in concurrence with portrayals of "counterfeit" noblemen, the kind of dual counterfeiting that the stage was ideally suited to portray. The final chapter covers the years 1700-1720, the period just prior to the John Law affair, when the stage was used to show full-scale financial systems in the hands of individuals of common social origins. Comic theater in these years was simultaneously a reflection of monetary development and a venue for shaping perceptions of money and those who handled it.

The dissertation aims to track the development of theatrical representations of evolving monetary concepts, particularly the passage from coin to paper. Focusing specifically on comedy, a genre whose subject had a unique relationship with the social milieu of its spectators, the goal of this work is to show how playwrights, at the same time as they helped define a literary genre, both reflected and contributed to the development of economic thought.

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