Julia Tamsin Prest

Prof

  • KY16 9PH

    United Kingdom

Accepting Postgraduate Research Students

Personal profile

Research overview

Julia Prest is Professor of French and Caribbean Studies. Prior to coming to St Andrews in 2009, she held academic positions at Yale University and at Jesus College, Oxford. She wrote her PhD at Cambridge, having studied French and Music at the University of Birmingham.

Current and Recent Research

Julia Prest's research interests focus on early-modern French, francophone and Creole theatre, including opera and dance.  She is currently working on a new project on theatre and disability in France and the colonial Caribbean. Her recent monograph, Public Theatre and the Enslaved People of Colonial Saint-Domingue (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) is concerned with the rich theatre tradition of the slave colony that would become the Republic of Haiti in 1804. In it, she draws on a range of materials and methodologies to explore the ‘mitigated spectatorship’ of the enslaved, portrayals of enslaved people in French and Creole repertoire, the contributions of enslaved people to theatre-making, and shifting attitudes during the revolutionary era.  The book demonstrates that slavery was no mere backdrop to this portion of theatre history but an integral part of its story.  It also helps recover the hidden experiences of some of the enslaved individuals who became entangled in that story.  

As part of her ongoing research, Julia Prest has put together, with support from The British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the University of St Andrews, a trilingual (French-English-Haitian Creole) website featuring a database of public performances of all plays, ballets and operas as documented in the local newspapers between 1764 and 1791: https://www.theatreinsaintdomingue.org. She is founder of the Colonial-Era Caribbean Theatre and Opera Network, supported by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Network Grant, and her edited volume, Colonial-Era Caribbean Theatre: Issues in Research, Writing and Methodology (Liverpool University Press, 2023) showcases their work.

Research and Impact

Julia Prest has published a critical edition 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, and she acted as dramaturg for a new adaptation of the play premiered in Martinique in 2022.  Her research also formed the basis of a new theatre piece by Catherine Bisset, Placeholder (published by Salamander in 2023) which reimagines the experiences of the most famous performer of colour in Saint-Domingue, known as Minette.

Other Research

Julia Prest wrote her PhD thesis on Molière's comedy-ballets, comparing early performances at the French court with subsequent performances in the public theatre in Paris.  Her next project culminated in her monograph, Theatre under Louis XIV: Cross-casting and the Performance of Gender in Drama, Ballet and Opera (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; 2013).  In her second monograph, Controversy in French Drama: Molière's Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; 2016), she changed 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 demonstrated 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 co-edited (with Guy Rowlands) The Third Reign of Louis XIV, c.1682-1715 (Routledge, 2017; 2019) and (with Joseph Harris) Guilty Pleasures: Theater, Piety, and Immorality in Seventeenth-Century France (New Haven, 2016).

Teaching

Julia Prest’s Honours modules in the Department of French include Saint-Domingue: Theatre and Society in a Caribbean Slave Colony and Translating French Opera – the only course of its kind, for which she was short-listed for the Most Innovative Teacher of the Year Award 2016 by the Times Higher Education.  She also coordinates the module Performing Early-Modern Sexualities within the Comparative Literature programme.

Profile Keywords

French and Caribbean theatre; opera; dance; slavery and enslaved people; disability; early-modern society

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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