The Spectator is a major figure of the French Enlightenment whose far-reaching significance has not been fully grasped. As a basic organising principle of culture production in France of the early and mid-eighteenth century, the Spectator is an intermediary figure residing between the ancien régime and France of the Revolution. This transitional moment can be read in – and, furthermore, was prepared by – the emergence of several new literary genres in which, paradoxically, a Spectator was allotted the principle role.
This study traces the process in which the king’s disenfranchised subjects, at first limited merely to looking on at the spectacle of royal authority and privilege, began to evolve through versatile Spectator roles into citizen subjects. Each of four chapters reveals the significance of these figures to the development of a particular genre or disciplinary formation: Spectator journalism, art criticism, fiction of voyage and the exotic, and alternative popular theater (the théâtre de la joie). These genres designate the Spectator as constituing the narrative, thematic, textual focus that articulates contemporary life, foreign exotic cultures, art objects and knowledge itself. In the shift from a silent, near- invisible audience to a more active, more sharply delineated entity of Spectators – for whom, and in function of whom, not only literary and social production but the monarchy itself were increasingly obliged to perform – a vital and as yet untold story of early and mid-eighteenth-century culture is recounted.
'Pucci’s treatment of the four genres she examines is at times brilliant, and this book offers new perspectives for understanding the cultural and literary changes in the first half of the century.'