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Research at St Andrews

Julia Tamsin Prest


Julia Tamsin Prest
  • French - Professor of French and Caribbean Studies
Postal address:
School of Modern Languages
Buchanan Building, Union St
St Andrews
United Kingdom


Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 463646

Research overview

Julia Prest's research interests focus on early-modern French and francophone theatre, including ballet and opera. She is currently working on the public theatre tradition in the former French slave colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) where in the late eighteenth century over 700 named works were performed in different towns across the island by professional theatre troupes before mixed but segregated audiences.  As part of her ongoing research, she has put together, with support from The British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the University of St Andrews, a website featuring a bilingual (French-English) database of public performances of all plays, ballets and operas as documented in the local newspapers between 1764 and 1791:  In 2017, Julia published a critical edition with the MHRA of the first play known to have been written in Martinique (and performed at least twice in Saint-Domingue): the anonymous comedy Les Veuves créoles.  She has published articles on various aspects of theatre in Saint-Domingue, including ‘Iphigénie en Haïti: Performing Gluck’s Paris Operas in the French Colonial Caribbean’, Eighteenth-Century Music 14.1 (March 2017), 13-29 and ‘Pale Imitations: White Performances of Slave Dance in the Theatres of Pre-Revolutionary Saint-Domingue’, Atlantic Studies: Global Currents (2018, online):

A graduate in Music and French, Julia Prest wrote her PhD on Molière's comedy-ballets, comparing early performances at the French court (at which Louis XIV was always present and sometimes danced) with subsequent performances in the public theatre in Paris (from which the king was conspicuously absent). Julia's second major project culminated in her monograph, Theatre under Louis XIV: Cross-casting and the Performance of Gender in Drama, Ballet and Opera, first published by Palgrave in 2006 and reissued in paperback in 2013. In her most recent monograph, Controversy in French Drama: Molière's Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence (New York: Palgrave, 2014; paperback 2016) she provides a detailed, in-depth account of Molière’s five-year struggle to have a ban on public performances of Tartuffe lifted (1664-69).  Drawing on a wide range of theatrical and non-theatrical sources, Julia changes the terms of the debate by challenging received notions regarding the opposition between the sincere believer (vrai dévot) and the hypocrite (faux dévot); she also demonstrates that Tartuffe was itself a key locus for the struggle for influence among competing political and religious factions during the early reign of Louis XIV.  

Julia Prest has published on a variety of other, related subjects including witchcraft and the Affair of the Poisons, medical satire in the work of Molière, the castrato singer, and court ballet as a means of religious reconciliation during the Wars of Religion.  She has also published critical editions of Le Mariage forcé  (1999), La Devineresse (2007) and Les Veuves créoles (2017).

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