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Henry Phillips

Prof, Emeritus Professor

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Current Projects:

Secular and religious cultures in seventeenth-century France


Specialisms: 17th-century literature and religious culture, 20th-century French religious culture, esp. theatre


Research interests

  • History of 17th-century religious culture in France
  • 17th-century theatre 
  • Modern French Catholic attitudes to theatre

My research interests are reflected in the range of my publications. The Theatre and its Critics in Seventeenth-Century France (1980) was the first comprehensive analysis in English or French of the complex issues relating to the stage controversy in France.  This book dealt with issues surrounding the morality or immorality of theatre, and involved analysis of dramatic theory as well as of works by religious moralists.  I have continued to work in this area, particularly in a comparative dimension (France and Italy, France and England).  I have published two books on Racine (Racine: Mithridate (1990) and Racine: Language and Theatre (1994)) which reflect my continuing interest in all aspects of seventeenth-century theatre. Another book, Church and Culture in Seventeenth-Century France (1997), a wide-ranging investigation of the involvement of the Church in the domains of art, literature, ideas, and censorship, drew on my long-standing interest in the intellectual and cultural context of the Grand Siècle.  I also have an interest in seventeenth-century French art and art theory. My most recent book, Le Théâtre catholique en France au XXe France (Champion, 2007), an extension in a different context of my work on seventeenth-century French theatre, was an investigation of changing attitudes towards theatre among French Catholics in the twentieth century. The research focused in particular on Catholic cultural identity after the Separation of Churches and State of 1905 through the development of amateur troupes, amateur theatrical activity in the parishes and dioceses, the creation of Catholic theatre journals and the establishment of a society of professional Catholic actors. This theatrical activity is studied in the light of social developments within the Church and developments within professional theatre, with specific reference to Jacques Copeau and Henri Ghéon, both great supporters of Catholic theatrical endeavour. This project, with the participation of two research associates, Dr Aude Pichon and Dr Louis-Georges Tin, was funded over three years by the Leverhulme Trust. A further outcome of this project was the catalogue of the Fonds Brochet at the Bibliothèque Jacques-Lacarrière, which I conceived and constructed with specialist help from Philip Bradbury of IT services in Manchester University. The catalogue is on-line and comprises a searchable data-base with biographical, historical and bibliographical detail. My current project is a study of the relation between secular and religious cultures in 17th-century France.


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 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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