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The Public Mirror

Moliere and the Social Commerce of Depiction

The Public Mirror

Moliere and the Social Commerce of Depiction

Though much beloved and widely produced, Molière’s satirical comedies pose a problem for those reading or staging his works today: how can a genre associated with biting caricature and castigation deliver engaging theater? Instead of simply dismissing social satire as a foundation for Molière’s theater, as many have done, Larry F. Norman takes seriously Molière’s claim that his satires are first and foremost effective theater.

Pairing close readings of Molière’s comedies with insightful accounts of French social history and aesthetics, Norman shows how Molière conceived of satire as a "public mirror" provoking dynamic exchange and conflict with audience members obsessed with their own images. Drawing on these tensions, Molière portrays characters satirizing one another on stage, with their reactions providing dramatic conflict and propelling comic dialogue. By laying bare his society’s system of imagining itself, Molière’s satires both enthralled and enraged his original audience and provide us with a crucial key to the classical culture of representation.

226 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1999

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Table of Contents

Part One - Creation
1. Uranie and the "General Thesis"
2. "Molière Author!"
3. The Portrait—a Second Person
4. The Social Commerce of Representation
5. Playwriting and Politeness
6. Molière the Spy and Zélinde
Part Two - Recognition
7. Precious Recognitions
8. Illusion and Reflexivity
9. The Second Comedy
10. The Represented Respond
Part Three - Dramaturgy
11. From Arnolphe to Alceste
12. Satire and Dramatic Form
13. Is Célimène Molière? Is La Flèche?
14. Staging Social Commerce
Selected Bibliography

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