Molière without borders
DATE & TIME: 17 September, 4–5pm (BST)
What’s your area of expertise and why does it motivate you?
My research area is seventeenth-century French drama and its first English translations. The early modern Parisian theatre world was rich in writing and acting talent, variety, innovation and topical satire, and I’m fascinated by how that lived on across national borders and in different productions and adaptations throughout the intervening centuries.
Please can you give us your 15 second elevator pitch for your session of why people should come to your talk
The French language is often dubbed ‘la langue de Molière’, but the comic playwright’s legacy extends far beyond French boundaries. Come to my talk if you want to learn more about longstanding Anglo-French theatre links and why laughter is the best medicine when it comes to confronting human hypocrisy in its many different guises.
For anyone who isn't yet familiar with Molière - what do they need to know?
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673), known as Molière, was not only a writer of comedies but also an accomplished comic actor, director and theatre entrepreneur. Several of his comedies allude to or explore the practical, material factors involved in making theatrical productions. Molière first developed these skills when he was part of a troupe touring the French provinces from 1646 to 1658, but not much is known about this part of his life. His meteoric success came when he returned to his native Paris, obtained royal patronage, and became a prolific, well-known, and sometimes controversial dramatist over the course of just fourteen years. Molière’s plays remained and still remain regular features in the Comédie-Française repertoire and famous comedies such as L’École des femmes, Le Misanthrope, and Le Tartuffe are often performed in translation.
How can people find out more about Molière?
A helpful starting point in English is W. D Howarth’s Molière: A Playwright and his Audience, and in French G. Forestier’s Molière is an excellent biography.
If you read French, this site offers lot of links to reference sites: http://operati.cluster030.hosting.ovh.net/index.php/ressources/sites-de-references/
You can listen to a recent radio adaptation of The Miser (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0013k5l) and a Free Thinking programme in which I took part (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00138km).
You can also listen to archived radio recordings of Roger McGough’s well-received translations of Tartuffe (https://archive.org/details/Tartuffe1) and Le Misanthrope (https://archive.org/details/TheMisanthrope_201905), a
There are some entertaining films about Molière – Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1978 film Molière is highly regarded – the 2007 Molière film is more akin to Shakespeare in Love.
Which great ‘mind’ (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why?
I’ll have to say Molière of course, though that might mean laying oneself open to ridicule (Les Femmes savantes already hits a little close to home)! Although the play L’Impromptu de Versailles is a comic representation of a rehearsal of Molière’s troupe, I would have loved to see the actor-dramatist’s mind at work in collaboration and under the pressure of the theatre schedule.
What does Oxford mean to you?
Oxford is very close to my heart. I’ve spent around a third of my life here now and I never get bored! I think the college system is special because it provides a secure base from which to work but also lots of opportunity to engage with other groups of people to share different ideas and approaches to literary study. The Maison Française d’Oxford is an invaluable research centre in French Studies and brings together Francophone scholars from around the world.
How has your time at Oxford inspired your career?
My time at Oxford has had a profound effect on my early career as an academic. I did my BA, Masters and DPhil based at Keble College, where Michael Hawcroft, my supervisor and a specialist in seventeenth-century French drama, encouraged and shaped my interest. I spent some time away, in Paris and Durham, but I returned to Oxford with a new perspective on ways of collaborating, teaching and researching
Favourite spot in Oxford? (either a hidden treasure, stunning view, or favourite spot to sit and read)
I like to see Holman Hunt’s Pre-Raphaelite painting The Light of the World in the Keble College side-chapel. It’s so striking when you turn on the frame’s light and see how skilfully the artist renders the colours.
Top 3 recommended places to visit in Oxford during the Meeting Minds weekend?
- Weston Library Exhibitions
- Oxford Botanic Garden
- If you have time, see if you can take in a play at the Oxford Playhouse.