Projet scientifique de l’IRCL

« Arts vivants, cultures, patrimoines
dans l’Europe de la Renaissance aux Lumières :
généalogies, circulations et enjeux contemporains »

L’IRCL est une Unité Mixte de Recherche (UMR) du CNRS, de l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 et du Ministère de la Culture, créée en 2003 par la fusion de plusieurs unités de recherche : l’UMR CERRA (Centre d’études et de recherches sur la Renaissance anglaise), l’UMR CEDIM (Centre d’études du XVIIIe siècle) et l’UR CIRBEL (Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche sur les Iles britanniques et l’Europe des Lumières), rejointes en 2011 par une partie de l’UR MARENBAR (Moyen-Age – Renaissance – Baroque).

IRCL’s mission is to analyse the construction and emergence of modern thought in Europe, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.
Four primary features of modern thought have been identified and are used to delineate the fields of study:

  • the progressive autonomisation of the frameworks of thought in relation to religion;
  • the persistence of heritages and traditions from Antiquity to the Middle Ages;
  • the renewal of aesthetic forms of expression; and
  • the advent of the printing press and the book.

The IRCL’s team of about 40 researchers and lecturer-researchers organise their research around these characteristics and have designated three research fields and two transversal seminars, into which members are grouped and engage in collective work.

Cultural environments in transition, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

Section leaders: Linda Gil, Pierre Kapitaniak

Field 1, Cultural environments in transition, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment brings together fundamental research on texts, and intellectual and cultural production from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, including the material aspects of the production (book history, publication, theatrical practice, performance history, and architecture). Research in this field is divided into four areas:

History and material culture of the book and the reader

This field focuses on research on publishing, book history and readers, and on the phenomena of diffusion, transmission, and reception of literary works from the early modern period. Based on the genetic study of manuscripts, the contributions of material bibliography and the networks of booksellers from the Ancient Regime, the work in this area gives rise to a reflection on editorial genetics, on the passage from text to work and to published article, a promoter of a history of ideas in that these books shape the image of writers and are carriers of an editorial discourse.

1.2 Correspondences, biographies, and authorship

This second field focuses on the study of correspondence and on publication, which allows for work on the history of literature and ideas in the classical age in Europe, including a reflection on new editorial practices, and on the uses and modalities of research made possible by new technologies and their epistemological challenges. This research includes a reflection on auctoriality, on biographies and on the construction of images and discourses that represent the writer and, more generally, the literary facts with which he is associated.

1.3 History of theatre practices from Shakespeare to Beaumarchais

This research devoted to dramatic texts and practices (French, English, and Portuguese) takes the form of editions and translations of plays and opera librettos, collections of critical essays devoted to particular works, and historical syntheses, including the material aspects of theatrical practice (costumes, props, stage music, etc.).

1.4 Aesthetics, theory, and history of art forms

The research gathered in this field examines the theoretical and concrete elaboration of complex artistic forms from various artistic domains (painting, engraving, sculpture, architecture, music) and from extended geographical areas (Italy, France, Netherlands, England, and the Germanic countries).

Exchanges and translations in sixteenth to eighteenth-century Europe

Section leaders: Paula Barros, Rachel Darmon

Le pôle 2 intitulé Transferts et traductions dans l’Europe des XVIField 2, Exchanges and translations in sixteenth to eighteenth-century Europe, is organised into three subsections:to eighteenth-Field 2, Exchanges and translations in sixteenth to eighteenth-century Europe, is organised into three subsections: siècles étudie les différentes formes de circulation, de diffusion et de réappropriation des héritages anciens ou plus récents, ainsi que des expériences, des œuvres et des idées, en France et en Angleterre, et plus largement dans l’aire européenne de la première modernité. Interdisciplinaire, il relève des études littéraires, de la philologie et de la traductologie, mais aussi de l’histoire des représentations esthétiques, religieuses ou politiques, et plus largement de l’histoire culturelle.

Il s’intéresse aux modalités des transferts, transferts intermédiaux, d’un support artistique ou technique à un autre, et transferts culturels d’une aire géographico-linguistique à une autre. Il étudie la circulation des textes et des images, de leurs éditions et traductions, au sein de l’Europe d’une part, et entre Europe et Orient, portant alors une attention particulière aux relations de voyage et aux représentations de l’altérité.

Les tensions entre écriture, traduction, reconfigurations sont au cœur des trois champs qui composent ce pôle. Notre approche critique ne hiérarchise ni les auteurs ni les types de productions, mais vise au contraire à découvrir de nouveaux corpus et à les mettre en dialogue.

Le pôle 2 s’organise en 3 champs.

1 . Héritages antiques et transmédialité

Le champ 1 analyse les enjeux de la transmédialité : il étudie la manière dont la diversité des media de la première modernité adapte les formes, les figures et les genres hérités de l’antiquité gréco-latine.

2 . Sentiments, croyances, expériences : expressions textuelles

Le champ 2 observe ce qui se joue lors du transfert des sentiments, des croyances et des expériences vers le support écrit. Il s’intéresse tout particulièrement aux récits de l’expérience vécue au quotidien et à leur mise en texte.

3 . Transferts géographiques et linguistiques : œuvres en migration

Le champ 3 étudie la circulation des œuvres, des idées et des formes, s’intéressant ainsi à la question de la traduction, de l’adaptation, du plagiat ou de la satire. Il observe les modalités par lesquelles voyagent les représentations, les sensibilités, les savoirs et les concepts, au sein de l’Europe, et entre Europe et Orient.

Contemporary dynamics of cultural legacies in a globalised world

Section leaders: Florence March, Jean-Pierre Schandeler, Patrick Taïeb

General approach and objectives:

Field 3 examines the forms, nature, and functions of early modern cultural legacies in France and Great Britain, and more broadly in Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries. Our work attempts to answer certain questions: what are the residual effects of early modernity in contemporary thought, society, and the arts? How do these influences play out in contemporary literary, artistic, cultural, and political dynamics? What kinds of works can be traced back to these legacies, and how were these works adapted from them? To what extent does 16th–18th century legacies offer a better understanding of the contemporary world, and conversely, what new insights can they offer on the early modern period?

Areas of study:

3.1. Shakespeare in the contemporary world

2016, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, highlighted the vitality of his theatre and the multiplicity of forms of appropriation his works inspire today around the world. But what exactly do we inherit when we inherit ‘Shakespeare’? A classical standard? An iconic author? A myth? A fantasy? An international brand? And how do we inherit it? Field 3 focuses in particular in the processes of reception and appropriation of Shakespeare and his contemporaries and their various fields of application, be it in the cultural and creative industries (live performance, audiovisual, virtual and augmented reality), in education, in the prison environment, or even with professional actors with disabilities.

The elasticity of Shakespeare’s theatre, a veritable laboratory of cultural and artistic practices, combined with its inclusive dimension, make it an ideal vehicle for sharing knowledge, seen as a common good. According to director Peter Brook, Shakespeare is ‘immediate’ or ‘living’ theatre, a category that identifies past texts and catalyses them into new forms via new media, and the words of which continue to resonate here and now. It is also ‘necessary theatre’, at the service of the society in which it is performed. Through the cultural and artistic practices derived from his theatre, Shakespeare thus emerges as a facilitator, helping us to question contemporary times and to imagine what we would hope for them to become.

The programme ‘Shakespeare in Festivals’, which conducts research on the festival format in France and Europe through the prism of the popular theatre model inherited from Shakespeare, is based on a research partnership agreement with the ‘Printemps des Comédiens’ international festival in Montpellier (the second largest theatre festival in France in terms of visibility and attendance) as well as on a framework agreement with the French Ministry of Culture for the period of 2021–25. It is based in part on the use of archives to study the place and function of Shakespeare in the history of popular theatre in France in the twentieth century, particularly in the festivals in the South of France. It also includes a collaborative research component, ‘Shakespeare and Citizenship’, in partnership with six primary schools in Montpellier. This programme employs a doctoral student co-financed by the Occitanie region and a doctoral student under a CIFRE contract co-financed by Printemps des Comédiens.

The ‘Shakespeare on Screen’ programme has two components: the database dedicated to Shakespeare on screen in the French-speaking world (, and the collection ‘Shakespeare on Screen’ co-edited by Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin and Sarah Hatchuel with Cambridge University Press. To study Shakespeare on screen is to focus on an age that stretches from the birth of cinema at the end of the nineteenth century to today’s digital age. This period of more than 120 years has seen the emergence of a wide variety of forms of expression and aesthetics on a global scale. Douglas Lanier has demonstrated how the term ‘screen’ now risks obscuring unique viewing experiences and production materialities. Research in this field must therefore be vigilant in formulating these distinctions that the expression ‘Shakespeare on screen’ may tend to dissolve.

3.2. The globalisation of the Enlightenment

The questions posed in Field 2 are linked to contemporary ideological issues. Criticised since the beginning of the 20th century, the emancipatory function of universalism and rationalism is contested in academic and militant circles today. In this context, the team’s work is based on scholarly critical reasoning that keeps polemics at bay by treating them as objects of research.

Following the ‘Survey on the Construction of the Enlightenment’, the ‘Survey on the Globalisation of the Enlightenment’ and the ‘Active Enlightenment 20th–21st centuries’ project, which began in 2017 with the support of the MSH-Sud of Montpellier, the 2020–25 project of Field 2 is two-fold:

  • Drafting of an International Atlas of the Enlightenment

This work is based on critical lexicographical research that seeks to construct a geopolitical cartography of the uses of the term ‘Enlightenment’. It aims at marking the periods of its appearance in such languages, definitions, and philosophical, political, or cultural content that are linked to the term. The periods designated by this term may vary from one country to another and from one political regime to another within the same nation.

  • Translations of Enlightenment works in political contexts

The goal of translations of Enlightenment works in political contexts is to analyse the social and political conditions of the revival of the Enlightenment in the contemporary world. Although the concept of the Enlightenment is not unified, it occupies a fundamental place in collective representations (during political events, conflicts, and emancipation struggles). The aim of the project is to better understand how concepts generally associated with the Enlightenment (human rights, universalism) have a structuring effect on debates and are reinvested or contested during acute crises.

3.3. Heritage: research and creation

Le champ 3 interroge différentes disciplines, différents arts et types d’objets patrimoniaux : musique, architecture, peinture, sculpture, jardins, objets du quotidien … pour les réintroduire dans le contexte historique de leur création et les mettre en perspective des grands questionnements contemporains.

As such, this field considers ‘heritage’ as both a type of evidence of the past as well as a cultural invention. As the soil of its own reiteration, the envisaged projects in this field value fundamental research (which determines the epistemological bases of a heritage domain), as well as contemporary creations (which draw from works of the past in order to bring out their power, force of enunciation, and perhaps their vindictive character).

The focus, then, is on establishing extensive repositories of heritage works, such as Dezède, d’archives et chronologie des spectacles. « Les Rencontres de Bournazel », qui favorisent la recherche sur la Renaissance in situ, prennent le patrimoine architectural comme argument d’un débat théorique. L’IRCL a inventé en 2012 la formule du « colloque-festival », espace-temps de rencontre et de dialogue entre chercheurs et artistes autour d’un même objet, tiré des corpus dramatiques de la première modernité abordés à l’échelle de la scène ou d’un type de scène. Les colloques-festivals s’adossent le plus souvent à la revue Arrêt sur scène / Scene Focus. Théâtres européens de la Renaissance aux Lumières.

The IRCL team’s output includes large-scale editorial undertakings, such as critical editions of La Beaumelle's General Correspondances as well as Complete Works collections by both Diderot and by D’Alembert.

IRCL is equally invested in the digital humanities.
In collaboration with Paris’s Opéra-Comique, IRCL created the database Dezède, which maintains a chronological documentation of concerts and lyrical and dramatic performances in the national space from the eighteenth century.

Other online resources produced by IRCL members include:
A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Classical MythologyShakespeare on screen in the French-speaking world, Maguelone,which includes images of printer’s ornaments from French and European printing-houses, but published under false addresses or without indication of place, and ‘Representations of France, the “french”, and the “French”, in English Renaissance theatre’ (upcoming).

IRCL organises numerous research seminars and several national and international conferences per year (see Event Calendar and Past Events).