The fiery Pacific: volcanic eruptions and settler-state theatricality in Oceania, 1780-1900

Looser, Diana (2014) The fiery Pacific: volcanic eruptions and settler-state theatricality in Oceania, 1780-1900. Theatre Survey, 55 3: 362-392. doi:10.1017/S0040557414000349

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Author Looser, Diana
Title The fiery Pacific: volcanic eruptions and settler-state theatricality in Oceania, 1780-1900
Journal name Theatre Survey   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0040-5574
Publication date 2014-09
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/S0040557414000349
Open Access Status
Volume 55
Issue 3
Start page 362
End page 392
Total pages 31
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract
In the closing scene of René-Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt's melodrama La Tête de mort; ou, Les Ruines de Pompeïa (1827), audiences at Paris's Théâtre de la Gaîté were presented with the spectacular cataclysm of an erupting Mount Vesuvius that invaded the city and engulfed the hapless characters in its fiery embrace. “The theatre,” Pixérécourt writes, “is completely inundated by this sea of bitumen and lava. A shower of blazing and transparent stones and red ash falls on all sides…. The red color with which everything is struck, the terrible noise of the volcano, the screaming, the agitation and despair of the characters … all combine to form this terrible convulsion of nature, a horrible picture, and altogether worthy of being compared to Hell.” A few years later, in 1830, Daniel Auber's grand opera La Muette de Portici (1828), which yoked a seventeenth-century eruption of Vesuvius with a popular revolt against Spanish rule in Naples, opened at the Théâtre de Monnaie in Brussels. The Belgian spectators, inspired by the opera's revolutionary sentiments, poured out into the streets and seized their country's independence from the Dutch. These two famous examples, which form part of a long genealogy of representing volcanic eruptions through various artistic means, highlight not only the compelling, immersive spectacle of nature in extremis but also the ability of stage scenery to intervene materially in the narrative action and assimilate affective and political meanings. As these two examples also indicate, however, the body of scholarship in literary studies, art history, and theatre and performance studies that attends to the mechanical strategies and symbolic purchase of volcanic representations has tended to focus mainly on Europe; more research remains to be undertaken into how volcanic spectacles have engaged with non-European topographies and sociopolitical dynamics and how this wider view might illuminate our understanding of theatre's social roles.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Communication and Arts Publications
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Created: Tue, 24 Mar 2015, 10:47:34 EST by Ms Stormy Wehi on behalf of School of Communication and Arts