The Fourth Estate at the Fourth Wall

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ISBN 978-0-8101-4037-0

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4036-3

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-4035-6
Publication Date
July 2019
Page Count
200 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Fourth Estate at the Fourth Wall

Newspapers on Stage in July Monarchy France
Cary Hollinshead-Strick

New media are often greeted with suspicion by older media. The Fourth Estate at the Fourth Wall explores how, when the commercial press arrived in France in 1836, popular theater critiqued its corruption, its diluted politics, and its tendency to orient its content toward the lowest common denominator.

July Monarchy plays, which provided affordable entertainment to a broad section of the public, constitute a large, nearly untapped reservoir of commentary on the arrival of the forty-franc press. Vaudevilles and comedies ask whether journalism that benefits from advertisement can be unbiased. Dramas explore whether threatening to spread false news is an acceptable way for journalists to exercise their influence. Hollinshead-Strick uses both plays and novels to show that despite their claims to enlighten their readers, newspapers were often accused of obscuring public access to information. Balzac’s interventions in this media sphere reveal his utopian views on print technology. Nerval’s and Pyat’s demonstrate the nefarious impact that corrupt theater critics could have on authors and on the public alike.

Scholars of press and media studies, French literature, theater, and nineteenth-century literature more generally will find this book a valuable introduction to a cross-genre debate about press publicity that remains surprisingly resonant today.
About the Author

CARY HOLLINSHEAD-STRICK is an associate professor of comparative literature and English at the American University of Paris.

“In The Fourth Estate at the Fourth Wall, Cary Hollinshead-Strick creatively reexamines a body of once popular—but since forgotten—vaudeville plays featuring newspapers as characters and props to show how the ‘Fourth Wall’ of the theater represented and critiqued the ‘Fourth Estate’ of the press as both media developed in France under the July Monarchy (1830-1848). With its textured analysis of ‘inter-mediation’ between plays, newspapers, and novels, this study provides a critical and timely reminder of the long and contentious history of ‘new media’ and ‘fake news.' —Christine Haynes, author of Lost Illusions: The Politics of Publishing in Nineteenth-Century France 

"With Hollinshead-Strick’s careful guidance, the reader delves into a world of in-jokes and allusions that made these seemingly ephemeral productions quite so piquant for their contemporary audiences. This is genuinely an enjoyable read and Hollinshead-Strick has paid great attention to the staging and presentation of these works as well . . . In short, she gets to the heart of why these productions were so popular to contemporary audiences, and thus why we as scholars need to study them more closely. To this end, her argument that literary history needs to look to the stage as well as the press is particularly important." —Clare Siviter, H-France Review