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Creole Drama

Theatre and Society in Antebellum New Orleans
Juliane Braun

BUY Cloth · 280 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942315 · $69.50 · May 2019
BUY Ebook · 280 pp. · ISBN 9780813942322 · $69.50 · May 2019
BUY Paper · 280 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942339 · $35.00 · May 2019

The George Freedley Memorial Award, Theatre Library Association (2020)

The stages of antebellum New Orleans did more than entertain. In the city’s early years, French-speaking residents used the theatre to assert their political, economic, and cultural sovereignty in the face of growing Anglo-American dominance. Beyond local stages, the francophone struggle for cultural survival connected people and places in the early United States, across the American hemisphere, and in the Atlantic world.

Moving from France to the Caribbean to the American continent, Creole Drama follows the people that created and sustained French theatre culture in New Orleans from its inception in 1792 until the beginning of the Civil War. Juliane Braun draws on the neglected archive of francophone drama native to Louisiana, as well as a range of documents from both sides of the Atlantic, to explore the ways in which theatre and drama shaped debates about ethnic identity and transnational belonging in the city. Francophone identity united citizens of different social and racial backgrounds, and debates about political representation, slavery, and territorial expansion often played out on stage.

Recognizing theatres as sites of cultural exchange that could cross oceans and borders, Creole Drama offers not only a detailed history of francophone theatre in New Orleans but also an account of the surprising ways in which multilingualism and early transnational networks helped create the American nation.


"A fresh and full account integrating transnational contexts with fascinating historical analysis and imaginative textual readings."

Werner Sollors, Harvard University, author of , Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America

"In this meticulously researched history of early French theatre in New Orleans, Juliane Braun traces the tremendous vitality and importance of francophone theatre across multiple geographies—local, national, circum-Atlantic, and transnational. In texts and performances linking New Orleans, to Paris, to revolutionary Haiti, Braun brings to light an important new canon of creole black and white dramatists who wrote in French and spoke to the multiple publics who jostled for space and sovereignty in the contested terrain of nineteenth-century New Orleans. This is essential reading for understanding the history of theatre and its cultural force in the early U.S. and the circum-Atlantic world."

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Northeastern University, author of New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849

Braun convincingly argues that the repertoire of the two theatres that served the black and mixedracecommunities reflected and "were powerfully inflected by the local experiences of New Orleans’s free black population."... Equally fascinating is Braun’s fifth chapter, in which she traces the history of the resettlement of free people of color from Louisiana to Paris and Latin America, which, in the wake of recent revolutions, was seen as a nonracial alternative to the United States.

Theatre Journal

In her history of francophone theatre in New Orleans, Juliane Braun employs theatrical scaffolding to construct the tensions underlying francophone identity in Louisiana. Juxtaposing, if sometimes uneasily, political and social history with thematic analyses of key theatre pieces from New Orleans’s several francophone theatres, Braun traces in fascinating detail the efforts to hold on to French language and cultural traditions in a territory constantly changing hands and allegiances.

French Studies

Juliane Braun’s Creole Drama: Theatre and Society in Antebellum NewOrleans is an excellent and timely entry into an untreated area of theatreand antebellum history: francophone New Orleans examined throughwhat Braun calls the "lens of theatre." Braun’s study follows renewedscholarly interest in theatre of the colonial and early national periods,with New Orleans serving as a key site to reconsider transnational geographies of early American history.

Journal of the Early Republic

About the Author(s): 

Juliane Braun is Assistant Professor of English at Auburn University.

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