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The Grand-Guignol’s Death-Defying Act : Popular Violent Spectacle during the Fin-De-Siècle and First… Cranch, Eva 2020-08-13

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1The Grand-Guignol’s Death-Defying Act: Popular Violent Spectacle during the Fin-De-Siècle and First World War By Eva Cranch  Course: HIST 449, Honours Graduating Essay  Instructor: Dr. Robert Brain  A graduating thesis submitted in partial fulfilment  of the requirements for the degree of  Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in The Faculty of Arts History Department  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard Supervisor: Dr. Coll Thrush Committee Members:  Dr. Robert Brain and Dr. Tara Mayer University of British Columbia August 13, 2020 2Table of Contents  Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………..…………………3  Introduction: Enter Thou Who Darest………..……………………………………..…….………5  Chapter 1: Reading Entrails: A View from Within………………………..…………….……….13  Chapter 2: Familiar Haunts: Unconventional Spectacles and Censorship in Fin-de-Siècle Paris………………………………………………………………………………………………26 Chapter 3: ‘Morbid Effervescence’: Decadence, Degeneration, and War……………………….45 Conclusion: Curtain Call: The End of the Grand-Guignol and the Power of Futurity……..……62 Bibliography.………………………………..……………………………………………………68  3Acknowledgements I have many people to thank for this thesis. First of all, thank you to my supervisor Dr.  Coll Thrush, for his unwavering support. From the beginning, he encouraged me to take risks with this thesis, and gave me creative licence to write it however I pleased. I trusted my writing because I knew he did, and I think that made all the difference. Thank you for agreeing to help me with a thesis that wasn’t in your usual field of research. Thank you for your patience, and your insight. Thank you most of all for your trust, and for your kindness.   I would also like to thank Dr. Robert Brain for supporting our cohort with good humour, rousing speeches about the writing process, and endless insight into the practice of history. Thank you challenging me to constantly refine my topic, for doing so thoughtfully and with generosity.   Thank you to the archivists at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France for helping me through all of my confusion, and to the anonymous donor who made my trip to the Paris archives possible. It was an unforgettable experience that gave me an entirely different perspective on what it means to do history. Thank you also to my hosts, who made my first time travelling alone much less daunting.   Finally, thank you to my family and friends for encouraging me throughout the year. Thank you for offering your suggestions, reading chapters, or listening to them out loud when I couldn’t stand to read them to myself anymore. Your interest in my topic, and your faith in my abilities meant the world. Thank you.  4Ah! There is no need to invent horrors. You just have to look around...You only have to cross the threshold of hospitals, asylums, of all these terrestrial hells!..and bend over—like a doctor at the bedside of a patient—with anxious curiosity, with aching pity, over all human suffering...”1  - André de Lorde   1André de Lorde, “Mes Crimes,” Spectator no. 2 (23 April 1938): 7, fonds André de Lorde, Ms-15338, 1Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. In French: “Ah! il n’est pas besoin d’inventer des horreurs. Il n’y a qu’a regarder autour de soi...Il n’y a qu’a franchir le seuil des hôpitaux, des asiles, de tous ces enfers terrestres! a se pencher—tel un médecin au chevet d’un malade—avec une curiosité angoissée, avec une pitié douloureuse, sur toute la souffrance humaine...” 5Introduction  Enter Thou Who Darest   During my travels there, I came to understand that Paris has a way of guiding people where they need to go, although guiding isn’t quite the correct word for it. It’s a subtle coaxing, the allure of an unexpected side street, the promised charm of things yet unseen. In obeying these beckonings, I stumbled across most of the places I had intended to visit, often accidentally. If we indulge this charming impression of metropolitan sentience, we might venture to claim that in the streets of Paris, one is drawn quite inexplicably to certain places for certain reasons. We might suppose that one feels a pull, hears a beckoning, or follows the sound of diminishing footsteps and finds themselves, as I did, someplace important.   In this sense, my experience of walking about Paris mirrored my unexpected fascination with and courtship of the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, the genre-defining Parisian theatre of horror. You see, I do not enjoy being afraid. I would never seek fear out—in fact, I actively avoid it. But somehow, this subject beckoned, and the winding streets of my imagination led me, inexplicably, to the Grand-Guignol. Then again in real life, the streets wound towards it, and I found myself standing at the end of a very short street called Cité Chaptal. It was a much less treacherous journey than I had imagined. The streets were not half so sinister—on the contrary, everything was entirely ordinary. There were garbage bins out for collection. The chapel, which housed many things before it dreamed of becoming a theatre of horror, no longer stands at the end of Cité Chaptal. There is instead a bright yellow building housing the “International Visual Theatre,” and a sign reminding people to keep their voices down, as the area is mostly residential. Standing there, in a place that is now almost absurdly innocuous, I wondered about  6all of the other people who found themselves waiting outside of the theatre, and about the serendipitous tangle of streets, both imagined and actual, that might have helped them on their way. To me, their attraction to the Grand-Guignol 100 years ago is as puzzling as my own.   The theatre opened its doors in 1897 under the direction of former police secretary Oscar Méténier, whose special task had been to accompany condemned criminals during their last moments before execution.  His short dramas, called ‘comédies rosses,’ focused on exposing the 2underbelly of Parisian society and the hypocrisies of bourgeois morality. His experience with the police had a clear influence over his subject matter, which borrowed heavily from popular news  pamphlets, called faits divers, that told sensational stories of recent violent crime.  Two years 3later, Méténier sold the theatre to Max Maurey, who further developed the theatre’s legendary style. Following Méténier’s naturalistic proclivities, the theatre’s brand of horror was meant to closely model reality, as its reliance on actual incidents attests.  This realism, however, was also 4paired with a flair for the melodramatic, or carnivalesque. Maurey invested a good deal of his time into shaping the mythology that would come to enshroud the Grand-Guignol. He would, for example, arrive at the end of Cité Chaptal accompanied by two bodyguards, dressed in all black, or stand outside the theatre and orate the gruesome details of some recent tragedy. Maurey hired a house-doctor to care for audience members who fainted or became sick during the show, although it is unclear if this measure was taken out of necessity, or simply to bolster the theatre’s   Agnès Pierron and Deborah Treisman, “The Grand-Guignol: The House of Horrors,” Grand Street 57 2(Summer 1996): 95. In French the term chien de commissaire literally translates to ‘commissioner’s dog,’ indicative of the unpleasant tasks that person would be strapped with.  Mel Gordon, The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (New York: Amok Press, 1988), 7.3 Richard J. Hand and Michael Wilson, Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror (Exeter: 4University of Exeter Press, 2002), 4-5. 7reputation.  The 1908/1909 program printed a cartoon of a man asking after the house doctor to 5revive his unconscious companion, to which an unfazed Maurey responds that the house doctor has fainted along with everyone else. This comic reappears in multiple other programs in the following years.  6 Despite the theatre’s reputation as a peddler of unhinged hullabaloo, most scholars who study the Grand-Guignol agree that the theatre’s success depended on careful literary construction and technical subtlety. The most effective onstage horrors found their success in guiding the viewer’s imagination far more than in an excess of gore.  A Grand-Guignol 7performance always featured both comedies and dramas. The technique of alternating between the two was called the ‘douche ecossaise,’ or ‘Scottish shower,’ because it mimicked the shock of being splashed by hot and cold water. These periods of stress and suspense, coupled with the relief of comedy served to heighten the experience of both genres.   8 I cannot think of a modern day equivalent to the Grand-Guignol, which is partly due to  the dominance of horror film in today’s conception of the genre. If we imagine that a haunted  house most closely resembles the experience of the audience on any given night at the Grand-  Guignol, this comparison still cannot capture the magnitude of the theatre’s popularity, since the  Grand-Guignol was not limited by a merely seasonal interest. The theatre’s popularity seemed to   Ibid., 11-12.5 Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, Paris. 1897-1962, WNA-157, ark:/12148/cb39513301k, Arts du spectacle, 6Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Programs for 1908/09, also 1913/14, 1916/17 and 1920/21 featured the same cartoon. It is probable that it was printed in later programs as well.  Gordon, The Grand Guignol, 44. 7 Felicia J. Ruff, “The Laugh Factory?: Humour and Horror at Le Theatre du Grand Guignol,” Theatre 8Symposium 16 (2008): 73. Project Muse. 8extend even beyond the limits imagined by the theatre’s director. In 1914, Max Maurey sold the Grand-Guignol, fearing that the actual horrors of the war would discourage people from attending his bloody little shows. Under the next director, Camille Choisy, however, the theatre purportedly entered its golden age during and after World War I.  It is the timing of this golden 9age that most fascinates me, and which has been the least explored by historians of the Grand-Guignol.   The theatre itself, however, is clearly a product of the fin-de-siècle, and therefore our  study would be incomplete without contemplating also the cultural milieu of the preceding 15  years or so. One of the theatre’s most striking qualities, as I have briefly mentioned, was its  commitment to reality. The horror of the Grand-Guignol was not a horror of supernatural  proportions—there were no vampires or werewolves or witches—and in that sense, the fears that  the Grand-Guignol capitalized on were quite real. Many plays portrayed such partially-  conceivable events as freak accidents, botched science experiments, madness, and gruesome, random crime.  The Grand-Guignol’s repertoire, was of course, still a fantastic work of fiction, 10but these fictions took their inspiration from reality, and attempted as much as possible to represent it as such.  The theatre’s unique position, straddling the very real and the very 11fantastic, further complicates its popularity. Oftentimes, the theatre’s appeal is explained away as offering its audience an escape from the troubles of reality. It seems to me, however, that the Grand-Guignol instead welcomed people directly into their worst nightmare, especially during World War I, when reality most closely resembled the Grand-Guignol.   Hand and Wilson, Grand-Guignol, 16-17. 9 Mel Gordon, The Grand Guignol, 7. 10 Hand and Wilson, Grand-Guignol, 3-4. 119 As Vanessa Schwartz argues in her work on entertainment during the fin-de-siècle,  Parisians were increasingly interested in spectacularizing the everyday. This fascination with the  extraordinary ordinary fuelled the popularity of the faits divers, as well as other attractions such  as the Musée Grevin wax museum, and the Paris Morgue, which was open to the public in the  hopes that this would aid in the identification of unknown bodies. Both of these attractions were  appealing, Schwartz argues, because they showed people ‘the real thing,’ or came as close to that reality as they could.  Both offered something of the grotesque, in a similar way as the Grand-12Guignol. Following this trend, we might better interpret the theatre not as an escape but as a confrontation with something that might otherwise be ignored for the sake of decorum.  While some excellent scholarship has been done on the Grand-Guignol by scholars such as Agnès Pierron, Mel Gordon, Richard Hand, and Michael Wilson, their work tends to stay within the confines of theatre studies. As it stands, the theatre appears in scholarship as a rather singular institution, seemingly without precedents or contemporaries. While I do agree that the theatre is remarkable, and indeed singular, in many respects, it is also much more connected to its contemporary Parisian culture. Connecting the theatre to its time in turn reveals in what ways the Grand-Guignol captures, obscures, parodies, or confounds the cultural moment it is engaged with.   I do not expect that there will be a simple answer to these curiosities about the social appeal and utility of horror. Instead, I propose an exploration of possibilities. By analyzing incidents of censorship, critical reviews, and the theatre’s modes of self-representation (such as those printed in programs, or written about by the Grand-Guignol’s playwrights and actors) we   Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-De-Siécle Paris (Berkeley: 12University of California Press, 1999). 10will understand the process of creation and reception: both what the theatre intended to create, and how those intentions were understood by different judges. In particular, the expectations of Parisian censorship will provide us with a blueprint of decorum, upon which we might better trace the Grand-Guignol’s transgressions. In understanding what, exactly, was provocative about the theatre we will understand as well societal trends towards the macabre, and perhaps a sort of willful ‘degeneration.’   Chapter one provides a more detailed introduction to the Grand-Guignol, taking a particular interest in how the theatre represented itself, and how it was understood by the people who were a part of it. The key voices of this chapter are actress Paula Maxa and playwright André de Lorde. Both subjects ruminate on the meaning of horror, and how it might connect to their larger understanding of Parisian society. Both come to a conclusion, through different alleyways, that there is something essentially Parisian and essentially modern about the Grand- Guignol. These accounts work to validate the Grand-Guignol as a unique, and artful institution, as do the theatre’s programs, suggesting that the theatre’s success was not so intuitive as to make these testimonials unnecessary. Fascinatingly, even for those who worked in the theatre, the reasons for its success remain unclear, and perplexing.   The next chapter considers censorship, or lack thereof, in relation to Parisian theatres. There is, even in the eyes of Paula Maxa, something transgressive and shocking about the Grand- Guignol. At the same time, however, it did not seem to be too much impeded by moralizing censors or disgruntled citizens. Examining censorship gives us one way to gauge the theatre’s place in contemporary culture, as an institution of shock and deviance but also one of long- lasting commercial success. This chapter’s second method for gauging deviance is through  11examining similar attractions that were present in Paris at about the same time. The Grand- Guignol’s brand of playful yet realistic morbid interest can be found in quite a few other haunts. A tour to these places helps us further situate the Grand-Guignol in a wider Parisian landscape. This chapter visits the Paris Morgue, which was open to the public, and various themed cafés and cabarets in Montmartre that took their inspiration from Heaven, Hell, and Death. These sites indicate that morbid entertainment was not confined to the Grand-Guignol, nor was it necessarily a niche interest.   The third chapter considers the theatre’s relationship to doom, specifically through its fin- de-siècle inheritance of decadence and degeneration theory, and its unexpected survival through World War I. This chapter considers the motif of prophecy and foreboding for an unhappy future. It reflects on the prescriptive nature of fin-de-siècle society, and the stratified implications of the diseases designated for the upper and lower classes. In the Grand-Guignol, we can see a strong correlation between so-called degenerates and onstage villains. The chapter identifies a characteristic thrill or anticipation for destruction shared between degenerationist thought and the Grand-Guignol, which is answered in some respects by the first world war.   The Grand-Guignol had cultural relevance precisely because it confronted what was inappropriate and fearful. As counterintuitive as this seems, we assume incorrectly when we assume people do not want to confront these fears. In examining degeneration theory, as popularized by Max Nordau, I suggest that attractions such as the Grand-Guignol demonstrate an unexpected response to catastrophe made possible by a society’s sense of its own end. So often, we think of the past while already having in mind the guarantee of that past’s future. The streets  12of Paris that lead us to the Grand-Guignol, however, also lead us to a dead end. To a precipice. At the end of that alley, perhaps, there once was a bacchic commemoration of the world’s doom. 13Chapter 1 Reading Entrails: A View from Within   The Grand-Guignol occupied a peculiar place in Parisian society. By its very nature it intended to shock, horrify, and repulse its audience, but at the same time, the theatre was insistent on its literary and artistic merit. Since at least 1904, most of the theatre’s programs included a brief description of what made the Grand-Guignol special, which was reprinted almost verbatim for the next twenty years. This description, without fail, highlighted the facts that the theatre was “universally known,” daring, avant-garde, and in possession of its own unique genre, which is at once gripping and distinctly literary.  The theatre’s self-image, at least, depended on these 13merits of originality and literature. In the 1916/1917 program, which introduced Camille Choisy as the new owner and director of the theatre, this brief description was supplemented by another page about “Le Secret du Succès du ‘Grand-Guignol,’” which appears to be a further claim to relevance and importance in increasingly uncertain times, a recapitulation of its significance to Parisian culture. The few printed phrases explaining the theatre’s secret to success claimed that, “We present here the Reality of Life, with its violences, passions, fury, brutality, but also its Beauty, which is found in Truth.”  It should strike the reader as odd that the programs advertised 14the theatre in such demure terms, which are so far away from the theatre’s salacious reputation, and in stark contrast to the theatre’s posters and performances. The slight gesture this quote makes to violence and brutality firmly affixes both to the reality of life, suggesting that the  Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, Paris. 1897-1962, WNA-157, ark:/12148/cb39513301k, Arts du spectacle, 13Bibliothèque Nationale de France.  Ibid. The original French reads “On y présente la Réalité de la Vie, avec ses violences, ses ardeurs, son 14déchainement, sa brutalité, mais aussi sa Beauté dans la Vérité.”14theatre’s main trade is in truth instead of horror. One cannot imagine that the theatre-goer in possession of the program would be fooled for long, which begs the question of why the directors of the Grand-Guignol chose to include—and to include so consistently—these short paragraphs about the purported true nature and purpose of the theatre. These programs tell us that the directors of the Grand-Guignol thought it necessary to constantly justify the theatre’s purpose, and to assert its importance as an original, literary contribution to the theatre community, even more-so during and after World War I. Presenting the theatre-goer with a program wherein the Grand-Guignol shared the ‘secret’ to its success made an argument simultaneously for the theatre’s historical importance—as a long-standing, well-known institution—and for its future successes. The theatre’s self-representation, although perhaps most forcefully argued in the programs, was not limited to that medium. Various artists central to the Grand-Guignol shared their insights into the utility or importance of the genre, and these reflections are key to understanding what the creators of the Grand-Guignol thought of their project and its cultural relevance. André de Lorde, nicknamed ‘The Prince of Terror,’ was perhaps the Grand-Guignol’s most iconic playwright. Writing in 1938, de Lorde playfully reflected on his career, noting that many assumed he must be “an awful man, a dangerous writer...a bloodthirsty dramatist...I have many crimes on my conscience!”Among these crimes, he “committed” by way of writing, “20 assassinations by iron, 8 by fire...6 poisonings, 15 stranglings, 3 drownings.”  De Lorde was 15prolific not only as a playwright, but also as something of a genre theorist for horror.  In an  16 André de Lorde, “Mes Crimes,” Spectator no. 2 (16 April 1938): 5, fonds André de Lorde, Ms-15338, 15Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.  Gordon, The Grand Guignol, 21.1615introduction to an anthology of his and Albert Dubeux’s works, de Lorde attempted to unravel the mysterious allure of violence and fear. He began by suggesting that horrible spectacles have historically been popular, citing Gladiator fights, public interrogations during the Inquisition, and public beheadings by guillotine during the French Revolution. De Lorde contended that even spectacles that are less overtly violent, such as circus acts, are more exciting when there is an element of danger or uncertainty involved. When there is a possibility that someone might, for example, fall from the trapeze, their performance is all the more enchanting. If the audience were to know for certain, however, whether the person would fall or not, the act would cease to be appealing. Complicating his earlier assertion that fear has always been compelling for people, de Lorde theorized that the things people are afraid of are constantly shifting depending on the nature of the times they live in.  New contributions to the genre, then, are not so much 17reinventions of the basic conventions of horror, which de Lorde understood to be universal, as they are an updated version of that horror reapplied to fit with contemporary culture. For de Lorde, reapplying horror meant adapting it to the stage.18De Lorde claimed that the spirit of the age, could be captured in one word: “l’inquiétude” [“worry” or “uneasiness”].  To him, this uneasiness permeated every aspect of modern life. In 191927 he wrote:  André de Lorde, “Les mystères de la peur,” introduction à l’anthologie d’André de Lorde et Albert 17Dubeux, Les Maîtres de la peur, Librarie Delagrave, 1927. in Le Grand-Guignol: Le Théâtre des peurs de la belle époque, ed. Agnès Pierron (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1995), 1320.  Ibid., 1328-1329.18 Ibid., 1329. The full quote is: “Si l’on voulait caractériser l’état d’esprit de notre époque, un mot 19suffirait: l’inquiétude. Cette inquiétude se manifeste dans tous les domaines de l’esprit. Qu’ils l’avouent ou non, une obscure angoisse tenaille la plupart de nos contemporains...” 16This feverish century did not know the joys of life; it saw from its beginning a menace    growing daily more precise, and in the waves of horror and blood which rocked it for    four years our old world disappeared; it trembles still on its foundations. Those who    emerged unscathed kept with them a sense of dread and the feeling that a terrible fate    marked their lives. The future offered them gloomy images...It is not for nothing that an    entire civilization felt the wind of death pass over it.  20In the wake of the war, and in the fog of lingering dread, de Lorde suggested that it was natural for people to be drawn to works of art that mirrored their secret worries, and for works of art to reflect the anguish felt “at the heart of modern man.”  We might venture, then, to consider that 21people during, after, and even before the war—since de Lorde suggested the dread began to mount before the waves of horror broke—were attracted to the Grand-Guignol because they were already feeling unpleasant things, and at least in the context of the theatre, those unpleasant feelings were purposeful, and could be directed towards something concrete, albeit fictional. In an undated clipping of an interview de Lorde did with Mme Louis Maurecy about his beliefs on spiritualism and the occult, de Lorde said that, though they were captivating, he did not think such phenomenons would work onstage because they would be too unnerving. He said, “I am scared, a little, of all inexplicable phenomenons. I am a sensitive person, and I believe that  Ibid., 1329. In French: “Ce siècle fiévreux n’a pas connu la joie de vivre; il a vu à son début grandir une 20menace chaque jour plus précise, et dans la vague d’horreur et de sang qui l’a secoué pendant quatre ans notre vieux monde faillit disparaître; il tremble encore sur ses bases. Ceux mêmes qui sortirent indemnes de la tourmente en on gardé une sorte d’effroi et le sentiment qu’une fatalité impitoyable les marqués pour la vie. L’avenir leur offre de sombres images...Ce n’est pas pour rien que toute une civilisation a senti passer sur elle le souffle de la mort.” Ibid., 1329.2117it would affect me terribly.”  As an aside, the interviewer then remarked, “And your audience, 22sir, did you think of their emotions when you wrote Horrible Expérience,, le Système du Docteur Goudrau [sic] et du professeur Plume, Terre d’Epouvante and so many other distressing pieces!”  The interviewer’s response picked up on the inherent humour in de Lorde’s statement: 23that spiritualism, of all things, would be too frightening for a man who wrote about disembowelment and lurking murderers with ease. There is a clear disconnect between what de Lorde found upsetting, and what the interviewer believed to be disturbing, which makes one wonder, yet again, about the function of horror in the theatre. De Lorde’s barometer for what was too disturbing for the theatre was, even for the interviewer, counterintuitive. What it does suggest, is that even for de Lorde, there was a limit for what was acceptable for the theatre. Although his limit was not where one might expect, it still suggests that to him, there was a difference between the type of horror he was presenting onstage, and the types of horror he found truly disturbing. We might infer that the distinction has to do with the social productivity of the two types of fear. For de Lorde, the fear of the occult was unproductive or untenable because it dealt in the inexplicable. In contrast, the villains of his own plays were consistently tangible, and recognizably evil. They represented a real world that could be understood, while whatever lay beyond that, for de Lorde, also lay beyond the human appetite for horror.  Mme Louis Maurecy, “Le Psychisme chez nos Contemporains,” Clipping from an unknown newspaper, 22undated. From the collection Papiers André de Lorde, Ms-15338, XXe siècle Papier. Formats divers. Manuscrit en français, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. De Lorde’s blue pencil markings are found on the backside of this clipping, leading me to believe he cut it out and kept it himself. He had a habit of saving clippings and editing them, even if they were written by other people. In French, the quote reads: “‘J’ai peur, un peu, de tous ses phénomènes inexpliqués, me confess M. de Lorde. Je suis un nerveux et je craindrais que cela ne m’émotionnât terriblement.’”  Ibid., In French: “Et vos spectateurs, maitre, pensiez-vous à leur émotion quand vous écriviez Horrible 23Expérience, le Système du Docteur Goudrau [sic] et du professeur Plume, Terre d’Epouvante et tant d’autres pièces angoissantes!” 18In the original French, de Lorde refers to himself as “un nerveux” which refers to someone who is very emotional, sensitive, or reactive. We might infer that this definition, and this type of person, was a product of modern psychiatry, specifically related to the concept of neurasthenia. Neurasthenia was something of an invented illness, purportedly caused by the many shocks of the modern world that might overwhelm the overly sensitive, and overly refined modern citizen. The ailment was typically assigned to those of the upper and middle-classes who suffered vague symptoms, and flattered themselves with their own ‘refined’ vulnerability.  24Neurasthenia, and the term “nerveux” share a similar reference to the nervous system. For de Lorde to understand himself as a hyper-sensitized modern subject, situates him, and by extension, his contributions to the Grand-Guignol, within the larger context of a modernizing, and perhaps degenerating world. The theatre’s connections to degeneration theory, of which neurasthenia is a small part, will be explored in greater detail in chapter three. Marie-Thérèse Beau, who went by the stage name Paula Maxa,  was the star of the 25Grand-Guignol during the interwar period. Although she had many epithets such as, “the star of the grand-guignolesque hell, the princess of blood, the queen of horrors, the lady of Père-Lachaise, the Sarah Bernhardt of l’impasse Chaptal, the Rachel of all the martyrs, and the siren of l’impasse Chaptal,”  perhaps her most impressive title was self-assigned. In December of 26 David Schuster, “Personalizing Illness and Modernity: S. Weir Mitchell, Literary Women, and 24Neurasthenia, 1870-1914,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 79, no. 4 (Winter 2005): 696-697. Agnès Pierron, Maxa: la femme la plus assassinée du monde (Montpellier: L’Entretemps Éditions, 252011), 13. Pierron, quite fittingly for such a gruesome line of work, refers to this stage name as Marie- Thérèse’s “nom du guerre.”  Ibid., 11. In French: “l’étoile de l’enfer grand-guignolesque, la princesse du sang, la reine des horreurs, 26la dame du Père-Lachaise, la Sarah Bernhardt de l’impasse Chaptal, la Rachel de tous les martyrs, la sirène de l’impasse Chaptal...”191965, a few years after the Grand-Guignol finally shut its doors, and near the end of her own life, Maxa published a reflection on her years at the theatre in Les Annales entitled “Fifteen years at the Grand-Guignol or the poetry of fear.”  In it, she distinguished herself as la femme la plus 27assassinée du monde, or the most assassinated woman in the world. In the article, she presented an impressive list of the myriad ways she had been tortured and murdered onstage, which included everything from being “cut into slices like a sausage,” doused in vitriol, impaled, and buried alive. She insisted, however, that despite all of that, at the time of writing, she was doing quite well, and that she had escaped unscathed.28Maxa’s memoir is enlightening for many reasons, and especially charming by virtue of its anecdotes. Maxa tells us, for example, about sneaking botched batches of fake blood (made from gooseberry jelly, among other things) to make tartines, “Think...blood tartines!” She divulged as well that director Camille Choisy could not read a manuscript without crying due to an eye condition.  In addition to conveying her own unique experience at the theatre, her memoir 29reveals her perspective on the theatre’s importance and attraction in Parisian society, as well as the techniques that distinguished the Grand-Guignol from other forms of performance art.  Ibid., 12. Maxa died of cancer in 1970.27 Paula Maxa, “Quinze ans au Grand-Guignol ou la poésie de la peur,” Les Annales, no. 182, 72nd année, 28décembre 1965, in Le Grand-Guignol: Le Théâtre des peurs de la belle époque, ed. Agnès Pierron (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1995) 1381. The exhaustive list is as follows: “Flagellée, martyrisée, les yeux crevés, coupée en tranches comme un saucisson, recollée à la vapeur, passée au laminoir, écrasée, ébouillantée, saignée, vitriolée, empalée, désossée, pendue, enterrée vivante...Bouillie dans un pot-au- feu!...Éventrée, écartelée, fusillée, hachée, lapidée, déchiquetée, mangée, asphyxiée, empoisonnée, brûlée vive, dévorée par un lion, crucifiée, scalpée, étranglée, égorgée, noyée, pulvérisée, poignardée, revolverisée, violée! Tout a été coupé, raboté, taillé, ratatiné, eh bien! vous voyez, malgré cela...ça va très bien.” (1381). Ibid., 1385-1386. 2920 According to Maxa, the most important ingredient to a successful work of Grand-Guignol horror was anticipation. The theatre itself, and the surrounding streets, contributed to the audience’s sense of unease before the night’s performances had even begun. It was essential, for instance, that the theatre’s interior be obscured by shadows, so that the audience must strain to make things out, and by extension develop a sense of uncertainty and discomfort. When the drama began as well, encouraging the audience’s imagination was more important than any stunt the actors may have preformed. The terror came from the audience’s own anticipation, imagination, dread, and suspense, which, if managed correctly, was sparked long before the curtain parted.  30 Since Maxa was privy to the stage tricks that so effectively horrified the audience, they held less interest for her, and she saw much more importance in the psychological aspects of each piece.  Ironically, descriptions of these stage tricks are now invaluable to sparking ones 31imagination about the Grand-Guignol, since one cannot visit it in person. It is a common misconception that the Grand-Guignol presented its audience with wild convulsions of violence: that its main enterprise was excess. On the contrary, most of the plays’ horror was intended to be cooked up in the viewer’s own mind, as Maxa suggested, and the stage tricks were meant merely to guide the imagination. Such tricks were most successful then, when they were exact, subtle,  Ibid., 1392.30 Maxa, “Quinze ans au Grand-Guignol,” 1388. “Je n’attachais aucune importance à tous ces truquages 31puisque je les connaissais. Seuls le côté psychologique et la marche haletante de la pièce me passionnaient.”21and enacted sparingly.  Sharing this philosophy, de Lorde explained that there are two main 32ways to frighten an audience. The first way is to explicitly present them with something frightening. The second, which was de Lorde’s preferred method, is to only tell them about the horror, thereby forcing the viewers to imagine it for themselves. According to de Lorde, the images that ones own imagination can concoct tend to be far more disturbing than anything he could possibly present onstage.  Maxa went so far as to claim that the theatre actually avoided 33using blood and gore as much as they could, and when they did have to use it, they did so artistically.  She was, however, committed to defending the theatre’s artistic merit more than 34most, and her comments about the theatre’s discretion are not echoed by many. Despite such disclaimers, Maxa initiated us into the world of stage horror, seeing no more harm in divulging trade secrets now that the theatre had closed its doors. Most of these tricks were quite simple. To cut someone’s throat with a razor, for example, one simply dragged a dull razor across their neck, while tracing that line with their own finger, which had been dipped in fake blood. Trick knives had retractable blades that would burst a packet of blood inside them when they were compressed. In a classic play, Le Chateau de la mort lente, the lepers’ sores were created out of bits of sponge dipped into red paint, which Maxa said was “absolutely awful” to see. In another piece, Paula Maxa received a blood transfusion onstage, and she wrote that you  Geraint D’Arcy, “Blood effects in Grand-Guignol and horror performance: making the right kind of 32splash,” Horror Studies 9, no. 1 (2018): 21-36. D’Arcy demystifies many of the misconceptions about the Grand-Guignol’s stage effects, often drawing on his own experience directing horror plays. On page 27 he gives a particularly interesting example of how performers might misguide the audience into believing they saw something that was actually merely implied through clever staging.  André de Lorde, Forward to Theatre d’epouvante, Librarie Charpentier et Factuelle, 1909, in Le Grand- 33Guignol: Le Théâtre des peurs de la belle époque, ed. Agnès Pierron (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 1995) 1316-1318.  Maxa, “Quinze ans au Grand-Guignol,” 1393.3422could hear people in the audience get up to take a walk. During that particular scene, anywhere from 3 to 30 chairs would empty. One play had a guillotine scene that was so upsetting during the dress rehearsal that they actually cut it from the public performance. Maxa slyly intimated that the play was not very exciting without it.   351. André Zucca, “Femme lisant le programme de la pièce,” 1937. Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris.   Paula Maxa’s account is unique in its insistence on the Grand-Guignol’s place in fashionable society, which again, is not something the theatre is immediately associated with  Ibid., 1386-1389.3523nowadays. It is possible, of course, that Maxa chose to present the theatre in this light to supplement the grandeur of her own career. Even if that is the case, however, some exaggeration does not render her point invalid. Maxa emphasized the theatre’s worldliness, its wide appeal, and its originality as an art form. The Grand-Guignol was, in Maxa’s memory, “the chicest theatre in Paris.” Foreigners made a point to visit it during their stay in Paris, as they did with the Comédie Française and the Folies-Bergère. Patrons dressed formally for a night at the Grand-  Guignol, as the woman in figure 1 did, and the Queen of Romania was known to be a loyal attendee, who would find her box filled with orchids.  36 Maxa expressed her puzzlement over the apparent discordance between the theatre’s subject and its audience. She confessed that she often wondered if the theatre ought to have closed “in the name of morality and sensibility.” She resolved the issue, more or less, by writing, “But...there you have it! was fashionable, it was Parisian.”  While this may seem at first like 37a weak attempt to reconcile the paradox, Maxa’s remarks are actually thoroughly illuminating. The Grand-Guignol was not obscure due to its subject matter—which even its star performer found distasteful—it was frequented by the elite, it was an institution. Something about the Grand-Guignol was fundamentally Parisian, and that alone was enough to justify its continued existence. It captured people’s attention because it captured—somehow—something of Paris, and when it closed, Maxa writes, that something of Paris disappeared.   38 Ibid., 1383-1384. “On y venait toujours en toilette de soirée. Je me souviens avoir aperçu, dans 36l’ombre, des épaules nues, des perles et des diamants qui étincelaient...” Ibid., 1389. In French the quotes read as follows: “au nom de la morale et de la sensibilité” and 37“Mais...voilà! ...c’était la mode, c’était parisien." Ibid., 1395.3824 Being Paris’s designated victim was not without its unpleasantness for Maxa. In her memoir she tells us that every night, she would receive prank phone calls from men threatening to kill her, and although during the performances she was not bothered by the violence, when she got home after the show she would check, “all the cupboards, all the wardrobes and, finally, I would look under my bed. I was the most assassinated woman in the world, but also the most afraid.”  Similarly, she described one of her co-stars, George Paulais as a nervous person, 39because of the “nightly massacres.”   40 Despite the fear that dogged Maxa outside of the theatre, by her accounts, it appears that the theatre itself fostered an environment wherein people could feel impervious to fear, as evinced by her own immunity while onstage. It was a place where things could be enjoyed where elsewhere they would be reviled, like the blood tartine. Maxa tells another story about a time an audience member fainted three times in a row, injured his head, and had to go to the clinic. When the stage manager told the story to the cast and crew afterwards, they all laughed uncontrollably. Maxa observed that at any other establishment, the man’s story would have been met with compassion and concern, but at the Grand-Guignol, it was reason to dance for joy and laugh.   Throughout her career, Maxa always felt a special connection to the Grand-Guignol, and returned to it again and again, even when bigger roles offered themselves to her. For her,  Ibid., 1383. Maxa’s experience as a nightly victim to every violence imaginable merits far more 39attention than this thesis can afford it. Agnès Pierron has written a book on the now little-known star entitled Maxa: la femme la plus assassinée du monde. In French, Maxa wrote: “tous les placards, touted les armoires et, finalement, je regards sous mon lit. J’étais la femme la plus assassinée du monde, mais aussi la plus peureuse.” Ibid., 1384. “C’étaient des massacres tous les soirs”4025performing at the Grand-Guignol was different from any other theatre, it was intoxicating, and evidently, it must have been worth the unease she felt upon returning to her apartment.   41 Perhaps the unifying feature of these depictions of the Grand-Guignol, all by people who had a clear hand in creating or representing it, is an obligation to justify the theatre’s continued relevance. In the programs, this justification takes the form of an evocation of the sanctity of art and literature, from André de Lorde it takes the form of genre theory, and a pull to reflect the  sentiments of the modern age, from Paula Maxa the theatre’s continued existence seems mainly to be a response to popular demand. The existence of such explanations suggests that the theatre required them; the Grand-Guignol’s success and relevance was not so intuitive or natural as to have gone unchallenged, even by its stars.   Ibid., 1388-1389.4126Chapter 2 Familiar Haunts: Unconventional Spectacles and Censorship in Fin-de-Siècle Paris   Although the Grand-Guignol attracted an international audience in Paris, the theatre’s short-lived tours abroad to New York and London were largely unsuccessful, which further suggests that the theatre was uniquely situated to thrive in Paris and not elsewhere.  In her 42article on the London Grand-Guignol, Helen Freshwater considers the possible reasons why the same theatre, using the same material and stage tricks, lasted for 65 years in Paris, and only two, from 1920-1922, in London. Freshwater highlights the higher resistance the London Grand- Guignol was met with by the censors. At the theatre’s opening, in September 1920, one reviewer remarked that the London and Paris theatres were, “‘not only miles, but moral temperaments apart...At the best, [José Levy]...may give us but partly Anglicised Grand Guignol; the Gallic cock must lose many of his best and gaudiest feathers in crossing the Channel.’” He based his prediction off previous unsuccessful tours the theatre had made to London and New York.   43 Despite such pessimistic forebodings, and despite the reprimands the theatre received  from the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship, which took particular offence to the seeming  purposelessness of the theatre’s violence, José Levy’s English Guignol “became a sensation,  attracting sell-out audiences and copious coverage in the press.”  Nevertheless, this success was 44short-lived. Freshwater ultimately suggests, along with other scholars such as Simon Shepherd,  that the London Grand-Guignol “was trapped in a cycle of increasing expectation” that could not   Hand and Wilson, Grand-Guignol, 20.42 Helen Freshwater, “Sex, Violence and Censorship: London’s Grand Guignol and the Negotiation of the 43Limit,” Theatre Research International 32, no. 3 (2007): 247. Cambridge Journals Online.  Ibid., 247-248.4427keep up with the audience’s ever-escalating taste for fresh horrors. Once the initial shock of the plays wore off, they lost their appeal, and the London Grand-Guignol petered out of existence.  45Freshwater’s argument throws the Paris Grand-Guignol’s uncanny success into sharp relief. It will be this chapter’s purpose to consider the larger Parisian cultural environment that proved so habitable for the Grand-Guignol, specifically in its early years.   Although the London censors were stricter with the theatre, the Grand-Guignol’s reign in Paris did not go unchallenged either. Information about the Grand-Guignol’s relationship with the censorship is quite scarce, but at least during the early years the theatre’s director, Oscar Méténier, was “a frequent target of censorship.” By Agnès Pierron’s account, it is not obvious that these plays were censored for their violence. She writes that he was censored:   for having the audacity to depict a milieu which had never before appeared on stage—    that of vagrants, street kids, prostitutes, criminals, and ‘apaches,’ as street loafers and con   artists were called at the time—moreover for allowing those characters to express them    selves in their own language.   46Méténier’s adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s Mademoiselle Fifi, for example, “presented the first prostitute on stage,” and because of that, the police censors shut it down temporarily. As with the London Grand-Guignol, it seems the censors did very little to interfere with the popularity of the theatre, which, as Pierron also attests, “was an immediate success.”  47 Ibid., 260.45 Agnès Pierron and Deborah Treisman, “The House of Horrors,” Grand Street, no. 57 (Summer, 1996): 4695.  Ibid., 95.4728Nonetheless, this example offers some insight into where the Grand-Guignol fits into a larger scheme of societal expectations of morality and taste. Méténier’s early naturalist plays have their  place within the contemporary developments of modernist theatre, which at once challenged bourgeois sensibilities, and sought to expose the underlying causes of societal problems, “especially those associated with modern life, including the consequences of industrialization and urbanization in order to solve both individual and collective problems.”  While the London 48censors expressed concern for the excessive violence of the Grand-Guignol’s repertoire, the police censors intervening with the Méténier’s works concerned themselves more with the depiction of ‘unsavoury’ people, which carried undertones of political commentary and social criticism of the bourgeois lifestyle.  49 At the same time, similarly-minded small theatres with an eye for experimentation were challenging the censorship laws that still had a grasp on the performance arts. This censorship  was officially lifted in 1906, but it had been gradually losing its hold for the last twenty years.  50Since the Grand-Guignol opened only a few years before then, in 1897, it is difficult to say how the censors might have reacted to its later, more characteristically violent works. It is probably safe to assume, however, that the Grand-Guignol benefitted from the relaxation of the theatre censorship laws.   Sally Debra Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-de-Siècle Paris: Staging Modernity (New 48York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 91.  Hand and Wilson, Grand-Guignol, 3.49 Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, 83.5029 As the example of Méténier’s Mademoiselle Fifi suggested, the main concern of the French censors was to curb potentially incendiary social or political criticisms in the theatre— anything that might challenge or upset the bonnes mœurs of bourgeois life.  This appeal to the  51‘good morals’ of society acts as a replacement for earlier religious morality that has lost its appeal in the secularizing Third Republic.  Some proponents of modernist theatre believed that 52popular theatre had the potential to instruct its audience in a new morality, providing “an impetus for national regeneration and social integration” while others saw the theatre’s potential for igniting “class consciousness and social revolution.”  Either way, concern for public decency 53dictated which scenes got censored, and works that disrupted the norms of standard, ‘acceptable’ living conditions were flagged, as in Méténier’s plays, as inappropriate and potentially dangerous.   Historian Nicholas Harrison traces this impulse of theatre censorship back to “the immediate wake of the Revolution,” when even then, “there was wide agreement that the theatre needed some sort of external control.” This consensus, according to Harrison, lasted through the nineteenth century. Victor Hugo’s 1832 play, Le Roi s’amuse, was censored for upsetting the ‘good morals’ of the public, and expressing political opinions, a right which the Charter of 1830 “did not extend to...the theatre.”  This charter had lifted the censors for the press, but not for  54 Nicholas Harrison, Circles of Censorship: Censorship and its Metaphors in French History, Literature, 51and Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 34.  Ibid., 65.52 Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, 155.53 Harrison, Circles of Censorship, 33.5430caricature or theatre, which were seen as more accessible forms of information.  Some theatres 55were seen as a lower form of art, and “the middle and upper classes were concerned about the way it gathered together a mass of people, many of them illiterate...and exposed them to visual as well as verbal stimuli...” The implication was that the general public would not have the faculties of reason necessary to make rational decisions based on what they saw on stage, and would perhaps be too easily influenced by seditious or immoral plays. At the same time, some of the more popular entertainments, such as the cafés-concerts and cabarets, were seen as sedative agents that could numb the common folk to contemporary social issues by distracting them.   56 Regardless of how people saw the theatre, the consensus seems to be that the Parisian theatre was a powerful and influential place. Historian Jean-Claude Yon goes so far as to say that “the power of the theatre in Parisian society was a unanimously attested fact in the nineteenth century.”  He cites a correspondent for the New York American who, in 1838, wrote that the 57theatre “‘was more extensive, vivid and interchangeable in its influence than the Church or the State.’”  In an 1884 guide to the city, the author claims, “‘No people in the world are so fond of 58amusements—or distractions, as they term them—as Parisians. Morning, noon, and night, summer and winter, there is always something to be seen...’”  Along the same lines, in 1876 59 Robert Justin Goldstein, “Fighting French Censorship, 1815-1881,” The French Review 71, no. 5 (April 551998): 786-787. Harrison, Circles of Censorship, 33-34.56 Jean-Claude Yon, Une histoire du théâtre à Paris: de la Révolution à la Grande Guerre (Paris: Aubier, 572012), 7. Ibid., 7. “‘Il est plus étendu, vivace et interchangeable dans son influence que le sont l’Église et 58l’État.’”  Cassel’s Illustrated Guide to Paris quoted in Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 1.5931Henry James remarked that the Paris theatre “‘plays a larger part in peoples lives than it does anywhere else...The theatre is an essential part of French civilization...It is not a mere amusement, as it is in other countries; it is an interest, an institution, connected through a dozen open doors with literature, art, and society.’”  Although statements such as these are difficult to 60quantify, the numerical evidence for the theatre’s popularity and perhaps centrality, in fin-de- siècle Paris lends them extra credence. Charnow argues that, during the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century, the “audiences for theatre expanded dramatically,” becoming a mainstay in mass culture along with the faits divers, cafés, and department stores. In the 1880s and 1890s, it is estimated that “half a million Parisians went to the theatre once a week,” and more than twice that many went once a month.  61 Censorship relaxed over the course of the nineteenth century, and creatives during the fin-de-siècle started experimenting with ‘low’ popular art forms like “melodramatic realism, street theatre, everyday speech, and pantomime.” Over time, these experiments fed back into ‘high’ culture, and changed the perception of such arts. Sally Charnow traces the morphology of the fin- de-siècle theatres by looking at how some of the most influential theatres of the time navigated their double role as a commercial endeavour and an art form. Many modernist directors at the time thought that French theatre was in decline, and they therefore looked to reimagine it. They “challenged both the dreary fare of melodrama and farce at the boulevard theatres and the  Henry James quoted in Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, 1.60 Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, 22, 25. 6132hallowed tradition of French classical theatre at the Comédie-Française and other state-sponsored theatres.”   62 Charnow takes as her primary example the experimental and modernist Théâtre Libre, which was opened by André Antoine in 1887.  This theatre, and others like it, was able to avoid 63the censor if they only performed in private spaces, neutralizing the threat experimnetal plays might pose if allowed to ‘turn the heads’ of the masses.  The Théâtre Libre, in order to 64circumvent this restriction, set up a season subscription service as an alternative to selling individual tickets, which would have made the theatre public.  65 The plays Antoine produced at the Théâtre Libre had much in common with Méténier’s, who was a contemporary of Antoine’s. Antoine’s plays “were known for their disturbing images of the dilemmas of modern life and its consequences.”  The stark, naturalist realism presented 66by Antoine and others challenged societal conventions and urged its audience to consider the complex moral dilemmas that regular people faced.  Just like at the Grand-Guignol, Antoine’s 67objective was to give his audience the ‘real thing,’ or as close to it as one could come. In an 1888 production of Les Bouchers by Fernand Icres, Antoine hung real beef slabs on the stage to make the set more convincing and shocking.  Antoine also encouraged actors to break away from the 68 Ibid., 1-2.62 Ibid., 2. 63 Ibid., 5.64 Ibid., 35. 65 Ibid., 15.66 Ibid., 12. 67 Ibid., 87.6833conventional rules of acting, and to act more naturally onstage, speak in slang and emphasize physical gestures and expressions. During some plays at the Théâtre Libre, the crew would spray perfume into the audience to convey “interior states of being” in unique ways. With these techniques, theatres like the Théâtre Libre and the Grand-Guignol offered their audiences a visceral experience of what was happening onstage, and at the same time, delved into the internal turmoil the characters experienced, which so fascinated the modernists.  692. “Le Grand-Guignol Programme,” 1898. Département arts du spectacle, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.   Ibid., 6, 99.6934 Figure 2 is a photograph of one of the first programs for the Grand-Guignol, which is making a playful reference to the theatre’s namesake. Two of the puppets in the illustration have fallen over, while the one on the far right is being hanged. These three puppets represent people of authority. The puppet on the ground by the club-wielding lady’s legs is in uniform, the puppet slumped over on the right appears to be wearing judges robes, and the hanging man looks wealthy and well-fed. The illustration suggests, and the content of the avant-guards theatres corroborates this, that the Grand-Guignol sought to tell stories that overturned the bonnes mœurs  and social stratifications of the day. The playful torture of these puppets in the illustration implies a challenge to authority and the status quo, which is echoed in the theatre’s early works.   Vanessa Schwartz makes a compelling argument about how mass culture in fin-de-siècle Paris worked to spectacularize the every day through mediums such as the faits divers and boulevard culture. Schwartz maintains that being part of Parisian society meant being part of an audience that was constantly seeking out “‘something to be seen.’”  The genres of entertainment 70that Schwartz explores, like newspapers, wax museums, and the morgue, were able to “realistically [represent] a sensationalized version of contemporary life” because, like the naturalist theatres, they took their inspiration from it.  71 In 1881, the “‘freedom of the press law’” lifted regulations and costs that had been impeding free publication since the French Revolution. In response, the number of periodicals  Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 1. 70 Ibid., 2.7135printed in France increased from 3800 in 1882, to 6000 in 1892.  The faits divers in particular 72epitomized the practice of “creating sensation out of the quotidian” based on the types of stories they featured, and the way those stories were written.  Schwartz argues that with the prevalence 73of the faits divers, Parisians began to read their world as a place where anyone could come under the public eye, or experience an unbelievable-but-true event.   74 The most baffling form of entertainment that Schwartz introduces is the Paris Morgue, which, from 1718 to 1921 was open to the public in the hopes that visitors might be able to identify the unknown bodies that were on display.  As Schwartz notes, other European cities at 75this time also had morgues, but only the Paris Morgue, beginning in 1804, displayed bodies “behind a large glass window through which the public might freely pass, seven days a week, from dawn to dusk.”  76 Despite the fact that Paris had plenty of other attractions, the morgue was consistently popular, and sometimes as many as 40,000 people visited it in one day. It was seen as a sort of museum, or public theatre, in which the visitors could always gawk at the most pressing scandals of the day.  Ernest Cherbuliez, in an article on the morgue from 1891, even goes so far as to 77compare the spectacle to the elaborate window dressings of the department stores.  Men and 78 Ibid., 29.72 Ibid., 34.73 Ibid., 36, 39.74 Ibid., 49-51. 75 Ibid., 45-46, 51. 76 Ibid., 48.77 Ibid., 59.7836women from all classes would visit to “gape at the bodies that were normally displayed nude, except for a cloth covering their genitals. A corpse’s clothing was hung nearby to aid identification.”  A green curtain could be drawn over the glass when a “change of scene took 79place.”  80 Although the morgue’s purported purpose was to encourage public participation in order to identify unknown victims, its huge popularity and theatrical touches, such as the green curtain, are incongruous with this mission. With an estimated one million visitors each year, it is highly unlikely that the crowds flocking to the morgue had any intention of identifying the bodies there.  The morgue’s main purpose, then, was as entertainment that mixed theatricality with reality to create an engrossing free public theatre.  While a young child was on display, Le Matin reported 81that “‘the size of the crowd forced the traffic in front to a halt and vendors hawked coconut, gingerbread, and toys, turning the quai de l’Archeveche into a ‘genuine fairgrounds.’”   82 In 1882, medical director Dr. Paul Brouardel set up a refrigeration system to slow the decay of the bodies, which had previously only been ‘preserved’ by a “continuous trickle of cold water” running over them. Because these corpses were often the victims of crime, and their bodies might therefore have contained forensic evidence, the morgue workers could not use substances on the body that might interfere with a later autopsy. Before the introduction of  Ibid., 53. 79 Ibid., 57-58.80 Ibid., 58-61.81 Ibid., 78.8237refrigeration, the bodies would typically be displayed for three days, and, if still unidentified, their photograph would be posted at the entrance.  83 Some bodies were so popular, thanks to the reports of their death in the papers, that public demand extended their display time. In one instance in 1895, two babies were found and thought to have been murdered by their mother. About 30,000 people came to see the children, who were misidentified by a visitor, and removed from the display for their autopsies. When the mistake was caught, however, “The bodies, which had been defrosted for the autopsy, were refrozen and displayed once more to the delight of the crowd...” Two days afterwards, at 5pm there were still “more than 300 people” waiting to enter the morgue. Two days after that, the bodies were “rapidly decaying yet the authorities decided that the show must go on ‘because of the two Easter vacation days, which will lead to a large crowd of visitors...’” By this point, makeup needed to be applied to hide the decay on the bodies, and they were more difficult than ever to identify, which suggests that identification was not the goal for the majority of visitors. Furthermore, when the children were removed from the display, their clothes were left in the display case. If identification had truly been the goal, could not the clothes have sufficed as soon as the bodies had begun to decay?  Public interest dictated the nature and scope of the morgue’s 84exhibit far more than anything else.   In another instance, a murder victim’s body was so popular, and remained unidentified for so long, with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people visiting the morgue each day for two weeks, that her head was eventually replaced with a wax replica to extend the length of the  Ibid., 58-59.83 Ibid., 70-71.8438exhibit. In total, Marie Le Manach’s body, or its simulacrum, was on display for a month, including two weeks after the body had finally been identified.   85 Beyond theatres and, I suppose, ‘museums,’ the morbid also had a significant influence  over the cabarets and cafés of the fin-de-siècle. In his account of his time as an art student in Paris at the turn of the century, William Chambers Morrow brings the reader along to visit three different themed bars in Montmartre that share the same flair for the macabre as the Grand- Guignol. Morrow and his friend Bishop planned this evening in order to introduce Mr. Thompkins to the ‘real’ Paris during his short visit. Morrow remarked, “It would be both a duty and a pleasure to introduce him to certain things of which he might otherwise die in ignorance, to the eternal undevelopment of his soul.”  After dinner, the three headed to Montmartre, “that 86strange Bohemian mountain with its eccentric, fantastic, and morbid attractions,” and entered the Cabaret du Ciel [Cabaret of Heaven].  Inside, Morrow describes the waiters, dressed as angels, 87“all in white robes and with sandals on their feet, and all wearing gauzy wings swaying from their shoulder-blades and brass halos above their yellow wigs.”  The interior of the cabaret was 88decorated to look as though it were in the clouds, and all of the drinks had themed names, such as “heaven’s own brew” and “star-dazzler.” The waiter’s call for these drinks was returned from the hidden bar by a shout of “Thy will be done.” At one point, a man dressed as St. Peter  Ibid., 72-73, 76.85 William Chambers Morrow, Bohemian Paris of To-day (Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott 86Company, 1900), 250-251. search/cabaret  Ibid., 254-255.87 Ibid., 255.8839emerged from the ‘sky’ and sprinkled ‘holy water’ onto the guests below.  Later, the angels 89paraded about with a golden pig, playing music “upon sacred lyres and harps...” In a pattern that the other two venues would mirror, the guests were then invited into the “angel room” where guests could test their wings, and fly about the room on cables.  Despite the dreamy decorations, 90Morrow’s resounding impression of the Cabaret du Ciel concerns its chilliness and gloom, noting in particular that the organ music “had a depressing rather than solemn effect, and even the draughts of heaven’s own brew and the star-dazzler failed to dissipate the gloom.”  91 Next the three friends visited a nearby establishment called the Café du Néant [Cafe of Nothingness]. Morrow describes that the outside was lit with “two flickering iron lanterns that threw a ghastly green light down upon the barred dead-black shutters of the building, and caught the faces of the passers-by with sickly rays that took out all the life and transformed them into  the semblance of corpses.” The outside of the café was attended by a man dressed as a pall- bearer, and the entrance was “heavily draped with black cerements...A more dismal and forbidding place it would be difficult to imagine...this grisly caricature of eternal nothingness...”  Inside the cafe was dark, lit only by candles, and a chandelier “intricately 92devised of human skulls and arms, with funeral candles held in their fleshless fingers.” The three were seated around a closed coffin, and served drinks again with inventive names, this time inspired by deadly diseases, a quirk that Mr. Thompkins was rather offended by.  93 Ibid., 257-258. 89 Ibid., 261-263. 90 Ibid., 258. 91 Ibid, 264-265.92 Ibid., 265. 9340 Morrow describes the café’s atmosphere as an “utter absence of spirit and levity among the other guests” whose main entertainment was watching newcomers discover the place for themselves. After some time, a speaker in a clerical coat addressed the visitors:   His voice was smooth, his manner solemn and impressive, as he delivered a well-worded    discourse on death...He spoke of...the gloom, the loneliness, the utter sense of     helplessness and desolation...the terrors of actual dissolution, the torture of the body...It    required good nerves to listen to that, for the man was perfect in his role.”  Expanding his topic beyond the sufferings of the individual, the speaker then spoke of war and butchery. As he did, the pictures on the wall “began to glow, the light bringing out its ghastly details...Then as suddenly it faded away, and where fighting men had been there were skeletons writhing and struggling in a deadly embrace.”  The pictures on the wall depicted scenes that,  94when lit from behind, would be peopled with skeletons instead of living subjects.  These scenes,  95according to one journalist, depicted French dance houses, or solitary men singing under the moonlight, who were then transmogrified into skeletons, one “twanging his guitar in praises of a heaven-lit death’s-head, and so it went on through the half-dozen pictures...”  Just as they had 96been invited to the angel room, Morrow and his companions were then invited into the “chambre de la mort,” the inside of which was very dark, with an upright coffin against one wall.  97 Ibid., 268-269. 94 “THE CABARET DU NEANT,” Scientific American 74, no. 10 (March 7, 1896): 152. https://  “In the Cabaret du Neant: A GHASTLY PARISIAN DIVERSION. NEW YORK SUN,” Current 96Literature (1888-1912); 19, no. 3 (March 1896): 250.  Morrow, Bohemian Paris of To-day, 269. 9741Throughout, Morrow notes the amount ceremony involved in this voyage (one hooded man makes a show of unlocking the heavy door to the chamber of death) and that strange voices  could be heard calling from unseen places.  98 Inside the chamber, the upright coffin lit up, revealing a young woman in a white shroud  standing inside it. Using mirrors and projections, the staff would then ‘transform’ the woman into a skeleton and back again. Morrow’s description of this process spares no gruesome detail, but based on the explanation of the trick offered in Scientific American it is more likely that the transition from woman to skeleton was much simpler and tidier than Morrow made it seem. Another chamber offered a similar experience, where a volunteer would sit at a table and order a drink, only to be served by a projected ghost that they could not see.  A third exhibit invited  99viewers to stick their heads into a small hole, and see inside their own face reflected, colourless, in a coffin.   100 Finally, Morrow and his friends visited the Cabaret de l’Enfer [Cabaret of Hell], the companion and next-door neighbour to the Cabaret du Ciel. The door leading into this Cabaret was designed to look like the gaping mouth of a “large, hideous, fanged...face from which shone eyes of blazing crimson.” Inside, red imps stoked fires and played “a selection from ‘Faust’” from within a cauldron. The visitors were greeted with “a chorus of rough voices” chanting,   Ibid., 271.98 “THE CABARET DU NEANT,” 152.99 “In the Cabaret du Neant: A GHASTLY PARISIAN DIVERSION. NEW YORK SUN,” 250.10042“‘Enter and be damned,—the Evil One awaits you!’” and this time imbibed “molten sins.”   1013. Eugène Atget, “Cabaret de L’Enfer: Bd de Clichy,” 1910-1912. Département Estampes et photographie, Bibliothèque nationale de France.  Like before, it was then time for theatrics, and Morrow describes that Satan came to address the crowd, “gorgeous in his imperial robe of red, decked with blazing jewels and brandishing a sword from which fire flashed.”  Satan then warned his audience, “‘prepare for 102the inconceivable, the unimaginable, the things that even the king of hell dare not mention lest  Morrow, Bohemian Paris of To-day, 279-280.101 Ibid., 281.10243the whole structure of damnation totter and crumble to dust,’” and invited them to visit the ‘hot room’ where a contortionist ‘morphed’ from snake to devil.  103 The nearby rue des Martyrs, where the Grand-Guignol’s star Paula Maxa grew up, boasted its own theatrical haunts that had a grand-guignolesque flair to them as well. Agnès Pierron points out two in particular. The first, the Taverne du Bagne was a prison-themed tavern, where the servers dressed as convicts and walked about with a ball and chain on their ankle. The second, L’Auberge du Clou aimed to frighten its guests with stunts like talking heads that appeared be have been decapitated.  104 Sally Charnow suggests that this popular interest in “mysticism and the occult at the end of the nineteenth century accompanied a pronounced ambivalence about modernity.” The general interest in the macabre or the supernatural came as a response to the secularizing and industrializing world, stirred by fears of “modern life’s ‘disenchantment.’”  In 1886, the French 105writer Villiers de l’Isle-Adam characterized the era as one stuck between “science and magic, the  imaginary and the real, the dream and reality.”  Many of the experimentalist forms of  106entertainment, such as the cabarets and theatres, dipped into this ambiguous ground, showing a  clear interest in crime, madness, and the macabre. The pairing of death with entertainment is a  consistent, if counterintuitive, theme across the faits divers, the cabarets of heaven, hell, and  nonexistence, at the Paris Morgue and the Grand-Guignol. Schwartz contends that spectatorship   Ibid., 282, 285.103 Pierron, Maxa: la femme la plus assassinée du monde,13-15.104 Charnow, Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, 101.105 Ibid., 102.10644is a historical phenomenon, that there are “specific contexts and conditions of viewing,” for every time period.  For fin-de-siècle Paris, viewing the spectacle meant seeing and not seeing. 107Visitors to the morgue “would literally stare death in the face and then talk instead about theatre and mystery,” while visitors to the theatre would look for death.  Such things, such ideas, such  108realities, existed in the ambivalence between reality and spectacle, and by extension so did Paris. After all, in Morrow’s piece, when Mr. Thompkins offered to pay for his companions’ opera tickets, assuming that is where they would go after dinner, Bishop laughed and said, “‘Why, you blessed idiot, you act like a tourist! The opera! You can go there any time. To-night we shall see Paris!’”   109 Schwartz, Spectacular Realities, 9.107 Ibid., 47.108 Morrow, Bohemian Paris of To-day, 253.10945Chapter 3 ‘Morbid Effervescence’: Decadence, Degeneration, and War   One of the most notorious texts to capture the fin-de-siècle sentiment of doom was Max Nordau’s Degeneration, published first in German in 1893.  In it, Nordau roots about to explain  110and diagnose the underlying cause for what he saw as the prevailing mood of the fin-de-siècle.  He found his causes “in degeneration and hysteria (or neurasthenia)....moral insanity (a term  coined by Maudsley), emotionalism, pessimism and despondency, ennui and the general  abhorrence of activity.” Nordau, himself a physician, further posited that the people of the fin-de-  siècle were weakened by their unhealthy city living conditions, endangered by the rising rates of crime, madness, and suicide, and tempted by the evils of alcohol and drugs.  In his book, 111Nordau interpreted contemporary Decadent art and literature “as pathological threats to a well-ordered society” and diagnosed those artists with conditions that threatened to spread.  112 Nordau’s introduction to Degeneration especially shares with the aforementioned macabre attractions a particular flavour of ghoulish excitement, a sort of lusty eagerness for destruction. While it is difficult to ascertain if people of the time truly felt as Nordau suggests they did, experiencing a “prevalent feeling...of imminent perdition and extinction,” there is certainly something to be said for the popularity of this genre of historical and affective speculation. Nordau speaks of the “Dusk of Nations, in which all suns and all stars are gradually waning, and mankind with all its institutions and creations is perishing in the midst of a dying  Walter Loqueur, “Fin-de-Siècle: Once More with Feeling,” Journal of Contemporary History 31, no. 1 110(January 1996): 11. doi:10.1177/002200949603100101.  Ibid., 12-13.111 Christopher Nissen and Marja Härmänmaa, “Introduction,” in Decadence, Degeneration, and the End: 112Studies in the European Fin de Siecle, ed. Christopher Nissen and Marja Härmänmaa (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), 5-6.46world.”  And he does so with a peculiar poeticism. Even as he condemns degeneracy and 113decadence, he poeticizes it. His writing itself, like the colossal disasters he describes, seems to find its allure and its energy in its own destructiveness.   The fin-de-siècle that Nordau introduced is one of irreverence, full of degenerate artists, and degenerate criminals, who “nearly all...lack...the sense of morality and of right and wrong. For them there exists no law, no decency, no modesty.”  While his actors are mired in excessive 114worldliness, the disasters he foretells are cosmic, spelling out an end of order, which had, “for thousands of years...satisfied logic, fettered depravity, and in every art martyred something of beauty.”  He imagined a world of confusion and terror: a world of disaster, but also of 115spectacle. For example, Nordau compares the Dusk of Nations to the lights that lingered for years after the eruption of Krakatoa, clouds “aflame in the weirdly beautiful glow.” While, “[o]ver the earth the shadows creep with deepening gloom, wrapping all objects in a mysterious dimness, in which all certainty is destroyed and any guess seems plausible.”  Nordau’s 116prophecies, whether they were meant to be ironic or not, capture the peculiar mixture of foreboding and excitement that characterizes fin-de-siècle decadence and degeneration theory. The living paradox of these ideas has a great deal in common with the paradox of delight and horror that was so central to the Grand-Guignol, and other such attractions. What they share,  Max Nordau, Degeneration [1892], (New York: Appleton, 1895), 2.113 Ibid., 17-18.114 Ibid., 5.115 Ibid. 6.11647most of all, is a worldview that is oriented towards a doomed future—after all, what is a night at the Grand-Guignol but a night of eager anticipation of terrible outcomes?—and this orientation  towards apocalypse entirely changes how people might understand their place in history, and how they react to it.   Although Degeneration was widely read at the time of its publication, after about a decade, the book had been more or less forgotten.  In 1923, however, Israel Zangwill predicted 117that, “‘Whenever art goes crazy and letters lose touch with life, men will remember the prophet of Degeneration.’”  Indeed, as Historian Walter Loqueur points out, “One hundred years after it 118first appeared, Degeneration is again in print, in contrast to many other fin-de-siècle writings.”  119Loqueur’s intimation is, of course, that art has gone crazy, and that perhaps our current orientation towards the future again mirrors that of the decadents.   Nordau was responding to, and elaborating upon a wider set of degenerationist theories that spanned from the biological, and psychiatric spheres, to the social. By the mid-nineteenth century, the fairly new practice of psychiatry was growing increasingly pessimistic about their   ability to discover cures for the maladies they claimed to treat.  As historian Christopher 120Milnes suggests, “Such disappointed hopes combined with the possibility of inherited psychopathologies,” which psychiatrists such as Henry Maudsley, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, and Benedict Augustin Morel incorporated into models of hereditary degeneracy. It was feared that  Loqueur, “Fin-de-Siècle: Once More with Feeling,” 11.117 Israel Zangqill, ‘The Martyrdom of Max Nordau’ (1923) quoted in Ibid., 11.118 Loqueur, “Fin-de-Siècle: Once More with Feeling,” 12.119 Christopher Milnes, A History of Euphoria: The Perception and Misperception of Health and Well- 120Being (New York: Routledge, 2019), 131. 48these pathologies, expressed by the degenerate through ‘divergent’ behaviour such as habitual crime, alcoholism, depravity, and decadence, could be passed on, so that society would rapidly  depreciate in quality, spelling the end for the European nations. Particularly in France, the connection between degeneration and decadence had been thoroughly established by the 1870s and 1880s, having become “pervasive within and beyond psychiatry.”  One French literary 121magazine, Le Décadent noted disdainfully in 1886 that, “‘Society disintegrates under the corrosive action of a deliquescent civilization,’” eaten away by “‘refinement of appetites, of sensations, of taste, of luxury, of pleasures; neurosis, hysteria, hypnotism, morphinomania, scientific skulduggery,’” and ‘“extreme schopenhauerism.’”  As this quote demonstrates, 122degeneration theory involved a careless mingling of social, medical, political, and cultural  concerns, ranging from overly luxurious hedonism, to hysteria, to hypnotism.  Their conflation 123came to resemble causation: society was a sickness, and at the same time, degenerates were sickening society.   Many artists were eager to align themselves with the intriguing malaise and irrationality of the degenerate.  Decadent literature embraced “An exceptional relationship with sickness,”  124wherein malady was given preference to health.  As Pirjo Lyytikäinen mentions, such a genre 125 Ibid., 131.121 Le Décadent 1886 Baju, quoted in Ibid., 131. 122 Milnes, A History of Euphoria, 132.123 Ibid., 134.  124 Pirjo Lyytikäinen, “Decadent Tropologies of Sickness,” in Decadence, Degeneration, and the End: 125Studies in the European Fin de Siecle, ed. Christopher Nissen and Marja Härmänmaa (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014) 85. 49was necessarily backward glancing, since “only death and destruction were seen waiting on the horizon.”  Many artists who took an interest in Decadence used it as a way to express 126resistance to the fast-paced change of modernity, and to question the utility of progress. They did  so by digging their heels in, and instead depicting things failing to progress: things falling into ruin, decaying.   127 Charles Baudelaire was a major influencer for the movement, since his poetry presented an irrational world, “often pervaded with images of physical beauty prone to dissolution and decay.” One critic, Théophile Gautier, prefaced an 1869 version of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal by defining decadence as:   ‘nothing more than art which has reached the same point of maturity that marks aging    civilizations as their suns begin to set...This style brings to mind a language that has    become marbled with a greenish tinge of decomposition, like the spoiled hanging meat of  the late Roman empire....Such a language is quite necessary, and yet fatal, for those    people and civilizations in whom artificial life has replaced natural life, thereby creating    unimagined yearnings within men.’   128Gautier here seems to anticipate the Decadent style, and his own prose is at once melancholic and eager to describe with crystal clarity the decadence of decay.   As Gautier’s quote suggests, the early Symbolist poets were drawn to beauty even more when that beauty was “destined for death and decay.” The same is true for what is perhaps the  Ibid., 99.126 Nissen and Härmänmaa, “Introduction,” 1. 127 Ibid., 2.12850most distinguished decadent novel, Joris-Karl Huysmans’ 1884 À rebours [Against Nature] wherein the main character takes beauty to destructive extremes, such as bejewelling a tortoise’s  shell to such excess that the creature dies.  The commonality across these examples is that  129emotions or themes such as death, excitement, beauty, and decay share a space at the centre of Decadent literature, as well as fin-de-siècle culture more broadly.   French psychologist Théodule-Armand Ribot, for example, thrilled in the extremes of what he called “‘acute mania,’” arguing that a patient might experience “‘a joy which overflows, a sentiment of energy and vigour. Some of these patients say on their recovery that they have never felt so happy as during their disease.’” Similarly, Ribot remarked that patients suffering from tuberculosis “‘are never so rich in hopes and fertile in projects as when they are on the brink of death.’”  Since the societal model of degeneration stemmed largely from the 130psychiatric one, it seems like no accident that the morbid excitement—as so eloquently demonstrated by Nordau’s prose—echoed observations such as Ribot’s, that patients could at once be undergoing treatment, or dying of a disease, and simultaneously be “‘rich in hopes and fertile in projects.’”   Decadence and degeneration converge into a theory of mass pathology, one representing the diseases of the wealthy, the other the diseases of the working class. In an article on fin-de- siècle Britain, Sally Ledger draws a direct line between the “twin spectres of degeneration and apocalypse [that] haunted the final years of the nineteenth century” and the moral-to-medical  Nissen and Härmänmaa, “Introduction,” 3.129 Ribot, Théodule-Armand, “Pathological Pleasures and Pains,” quoted in Milnes, A History of 130Euphoria, 134.51distrust of the urban poor. Thanks to the increasingly popular theories of eugenics and social 131Darwinism, beliefs that the poor were somehow less biologically ‘fit’ could be backed by pseudoscience.  Ledger notes that those labeled as degenerates at the time were often compared  132to beasts or monsters who threatened the “self-destruction of a ‘race’...weakening the country from within.”  In contrast, upper and middle class patients were increasingly diagnosed with 133diseases of sensitivity, such as neurasthenia, which “covered ‘all forms and types of nervous exhaustion coming from the brain and from the spinal cord.’” It had more than sixty symptoms and “could be attributed to the excessive collisions and shocks of modernity.”  That all classes 134were offered their own ailments suggests further, perhaps, an eagerness for apocalypse. More-so, it offers a prescriptive view of society that allocates disease and blame based on unfair systems of classism and racism. The caricatures these diseases created were readily available in the Grand-Guignol’s performances, which almost always allocated the role of the villain to a degenerate.   In Robert Nye’s study of Modern France’s relationship to ‘national decline,’ he picks up  on another example of the dichotomous mixing of joy and crisis, or death and entertainment,  which this time manifests as the inherent contradiction of the interchangeability of the terms  belle époque and fin-de-siècle. Nye wonders, “Is it contradictory to link together the terms ‘belle   Sally Ledger, “In Darkest England: The Terror of Degeneration in ‘Fin-de-Siècle’ Britain,” Literature 131and History 4, no. 2 (September 1995): 71. Ibid., 73. 132 Ibid., 82. 133 Anson Rabinbach, "Mental Fatigue, Neurasthenia, and Civilization,” in The Human Motor: The 134Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 153-154. 52epoque’ and ‘cultural crisis’? Can a period whose literature, music, and art reached pinnacles  arguably as high as those in any other era in French (or European) culture have coincided with a  profound and widespread concern with illness and decline?” He contends that, despite the strong  positive implications of the term belle époque, “the thirty years preceding [World War I] were  years of social and political conflict.” Analyzing trends for literacy, class, wages, and economy,  Nye notes that, at the turn of the century, many aspects of life in France were improving. Regardless, contemporaries such as Jacques Chastenet remarked, “‘In reality it was a tense and anxious epoch.’” Nye, linking this sentiment to themes of decadence and degeneration calls the “ebullience and joie de vivre of the belle époque...a last feverish eruption of a dying culture, or the bittersweet pleasure of being the ‘last of a series.’” Nineteenth-century sociologist Emile Durkheim called it a “‘morbid effervescence.’”   135 Nye goes on to analyze other data, such as low birth rates and growing public concern  about alcohol consumption, that justifies the unease that was so prevalent in the depictions of the  time. Either way, I do not think the dichotomy between belle époque and fin-de-siècle needs to be maintained.  As we have seen, the two themes of beauty or grandeur, and of crisis were in 136no way mutually exclusive at the turn of the century. The delightful term “morbid effervescence” alone suggests that the two visions of a belle époque and a fin-de-siècle, one of a civilization at its peak, and the other of that civilization tottering at the edge of its fall can easily meld into one. They become the elegant flutes of champagne at a decadent’s party: at once glamorous and ruined. The bubbles winking themselves out of existence.   Robert A. Nye, Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National 135Decline (Princeton University Press, 2014), 132-133. Project Ibid., 133-135. 13653 In the same year as Degeneration, German historian Hans Delbrück published a long essay where he traced moral deterioration through the ages. He remarked, “‘We certainly live in a time of evil: discontent, decline, disintegration everywhere.’” He found, however, that moral deterioration, and “general putrefaction” had been decried as far back as he could trace it, concluding that the world ends more often than we think.  In 1914, World War I began, and the  137fin-de-siècle prophecy of civilization bringing itself to destruction came true. Or at least as true as prophecies ever come. With it came serious reconsiderations of what would be appropriate forms of wartime entertainment, as well as an overhaul of society’s relationship to death.   Historical research on the place of entertainment and the arts during wartime is still a  relatively unexplored topic.  While researching the function of music during World War I in the 138archives, historian Rachel Moore was repeatedly met with unfilled requests for documents. Instead, she would receive a simple note from the archivist reading, “no concerts—wartime.” As Moore remarks, it seems quite natural to assume that during a time of severe crisis, trivial things such as plays and concerts cease to exist. This, however, is not the case. Paris did not spend four silent, bleak, black-and-white years because there was a war going on. When Moore finally did get her hands on a collection of concert programs, she found more than even she had expected or imagined.   139 In early September, 1914, the first bombs were dropped on Paris. Many fled to the countryside, and “the deserted capital had the air of a morgue. Paris, the ‘City of Light,’ had  Hans Delbrück quoted in Loqueur, “Fin-de-Siècle: Once More with Feeling,” 15-16. 137 Rachel Moore, Performing Propaganda: Musical Life and Culture in Paris during the First World War 138(Rochester: Boydell & Brewer, 2018), 3. JSTOR. Ibid., 1. 13954become the city of darkness, as everyday existence appeared suspended.” Even before this, once mobilization began, Moore maintains that Paris shifted. The theatres, which were closed for a vacation in the summer did not reopen in September, nor did the concert halls.  140 An American named William J. Guard spent the first two months of the War in Paris. The  letters that he sent to his friend who worked as the Managing Editor of The Evening Sun in New York were later compiled into a book.  In Guard’s account, the city of Paris met the declaration  141of war with an impressive and mature solemnity. While out with his friends at Amenonville on August 8, 1914, Guard watched a restaurant’s manager, upon receiving a message, tell the orchestra to stop playing their tango, “‘Stop that music,’ he calls to the band. ‘The mobilization decree has just been announced. It begins at midnight. Play the ‘Marseillaise.’”’   142 His Amenonville anecdote captured the immediacy with which all music was redirected toward the war effort or deemed inappropriate. The cafés closed at eight, and the restaurants at nine-thirty. Guard himself felt shy about playing even ‘The Marseillaise’ on the piano in his room, and his musician friend got in the habit of shutting all of the windows, drawing the curtains, and practicing her scales during the noisiest part of the day.  In Guard’s account, even 143the news of a soldier’s death was met with a sort of respectful, euphemistic quiet. The soldier’s  Ibid., 18. 140 Guard, William J., The Soul of Paris: Two Months in the French Capital During the War of 1914: 141Random Notes of an American Newspaper Man (New York: The Sun Printing and Publishing Company, 1914) 3-4. HathiTrust.  Ibid., 9. 142 Ibid., 32. 14355family would receive the medal he wore on his wrist with his information on it, and therefore, hearing the news of a loved-one’s death was referred to as “‘receiving the medal.’”  144 In his letter from August 19, Guard mentioned that the city was already considering reopening its theatres. He believed this would be a welcome return to normalcy for Parisians for whom, “that form of amusement seems more or less necessary...”   145 The debate about whether these theatres should ever reopen “continued in the daily press throughout September and October 1914, and was a recurrent object of discourse whenever heavy bombardments endangered the capital.”  Some found the resumption of such activities 146inappropriate. Composer Camille Saint-Saëns, for example, stopped writing during the time, declaring, “‘I cannot sing whilst France suffers...if, for France to emerge swiftly victorious from this war, all I had to do was never write another note in my life, I would break my pen with joy.’”  Critic Adolphe Brisson wrote that in those early months, “‘a sense of decency 147condemned [theatre] to silence...the most noble of spectacles seemed frivolous, in the presence of the perils which threatened the homeland.’”  The counterpoint to these sentiments, which 148Guard mentioned, was that theatres would help give life a sense of normalcy, and help civilians live with the war, offering comfort as well as distraction.   Ibid., 28. 144 Ibid., 32.145 Rachel Moore, Performing Propaganda, 22.146 Ibid., 19 quoting 1915 survey in La musique pendant la guerre.147 Ibid., 19-20. 14856 When theatres did begin to reopen, in late November 1914, they did so under the condition that all performances must first be approved by the Préfecture of police, which set up three departments to handle censorship in the “press, cinema, and theatres and chansons respectively.” Essentially, the censor that had been removed in 1906 was back. Every program had to be submitted to the Préfecture for approval, and perhaps alteration, and issued a visa before it could be performed. Battle scenes, depictions of the trenches, uniforms, stories that made fun of the government or the military, or “works of a ‘vulgar’ nature” that may negatively impact morale were all subject to censorship. Beyond scrutinizing the programs, and negotiating with directors and writers who contested their decisions, the Préfecture also attended dress rehearsals to make sure that the “costumes, sets, and gestures” were also meeting the standards of the censorship.  The theatres’ reopening was further justified by a new tax that directly aided 149the war effort.  150 There was always some risk involved in attending the theatre, because from 1914 to 1916 there were regular air raids on Paris, and much closer-ranged attacks in 1918. Despite these, and despite the increasing discomfort of the theatres themselves, which were under heating and lighting restrictions, public support for performances was “overwhelming.”  Police reports 151showed that theatre attendance increased from 272,080 people in December 1914, to 443,901 in January 1915, and 531,365 in April that same year. In 1917 the police reported that “‘never have places of entertainment, theatres, cinemas, been so full.’”  152 Ibid., 24-25.149 Ibid., 27.150 Ibid., 30, 32.151 Ibid., 38. 15257 The war offered a new context for performances. In particular, wartime entertainment was redirected into propaganda, or into a platform for promoting “a sense of belonging” and boosting morale.  If entertainment was to be used to serve these purposes, it follows that there 153were specific types of programming that were appropriate, and some that were not, and the Préfecture took the job of distinguishing between the two seriously. It is difficult to imagine how the Grand-Guignol qualified as a morale-boosting, or a patriotic institution. Information on the Grand-Guignol during the war is scarce, so it is difficult to do much more than speculate. What we do know, however, thanks Agnès Pierron’s exhaustive compilation of each season’s repertoire, is that the Grand-Guignol remained open during the war. It reopened in April 1915, under the new directorship of Camille Choisy, and continued to put on performances for the rest of the war.  It is difficult to imagine how the Grand-Guignol’s material could not be considered 154‘vulgar’ in the context of the war, since it very clearly fixated on and spectacularized violent death. The programs from these years do not seem to differ much from any other year, however, so it would seem—astoundingly—that the Grand-Guignol carried on throughout the war with little interference or backlash.   In 1938 André de Lorde published a short article reflecting on his career as a playwright titled “Mes Crimes.” He mentioned that a piece called Au Petit Jour was censored during the war and “almost landed me in prison.” The performance caused a stir in the audience because it depicted a man receiving the death penalty. The scene itself was not very graphic, as the man’s death was supposed to appear foggy and far-away. From the wings, other actors shouted at the  Ibid., 9.153 Agnès Pierron, Le Grand-Guignol: Le Théâtre des peurs de la belle époque (Paris: Éditions Robert 154Laffont, 1995), 1402, 1410-1412. 58condemned man, and, according to de Lorde, this confused audience members, who believed the shouting was coming from the other spectators, who began bickering with each other. The arguing over the death penalty only stopped when a friend of de Lorde finally shouted, “Listen to the play!”  The next day the police were notified, and the play was prohibited. Two days after 155that, de Lorde and his collaborator Jean Bernac were summoned to appear before the Police Prefect Monsieur Raux. By de Lorde’s account, M. Raux had gravely misunderstood the piece to be defeatist, and was therefore incensed enough to want to arrest de Lorde and Bernac in addition to banning their play. In de Lorde’s words, “we had plenty of trouble getting ourselves  out of it!”  This example helps us sketch the boundaries of acceptability during the war. The 156example is unique in that it involves a misunderstanding. What might have been censored as a politically incendiary piece for portraying a contested subject such as the death penalty, was actually censored for being defeatist, and therefore, detrimental to the war effort. That this piece, which was not especially graphic by Grand-Guignol standards, was considered transgressive enough to be intolerable for the censors is perplexing. Why were other, more gruesome plays not treated with the same level of suspicion, or at the very least, the same level of misunderstanding?   Leonard Smith, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, and Annette Becker argue that the first World War was especially impactful for France because so much of the Western Front was fought there.  The very first month of fighting, which is now referred to as the Battle of the Marne in 157 André de Lorde, “Mes Crimes,” (16 April 1938): 6.155 Ibid., 6-7.156 Leonard V. Smith, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, and Annette Becker, France and the Great War. 157(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 6.59September 1914 was the “bloodiest in the entire war” and “led to the descent into trench warfare.”  During “this most lethal episode of the war” about 329,000 French soldiers died, 158“And the outcome was at best ambiguous,” although it was considered a victory.  159 By design, the total war of 1914-1918 was intended to impact everyone in society. Soldiers and civilians alike “endured a war ancient in its cruelty and very modern in the ways it regulated and extorted from the subject people.”  French citizens living in occupied zones and 160French prisoners of war, in the most extreme cases, were forced to work at the front, “fortifying enemy trenches or burying enemy dead,” which put them at risk of being shot by their own army.  This, compiled with the grief felt by those behind the front who lost loved ones, meant 161that no one in France was left untouched by the war. Of the eight million Frenchmen mobilized, 40% were wounded, and 1.3 million were killed. Half of those deaths occurred in the first year and a half of the war. For four and a half years, an average of 890 men were killed each day.  162Compared to the other “Great Powers” in the war, France lost 3.4% of its population, while Germany lost 3%, Austria-Hungary lost 1.9%, and Great Britain and Italy lost 1.6%.  163 Suffering, of course, is not a contest. But, as these statistics suggest, if any place had had its fill of death, it should have been France. Miraculously, however, the Grand-Guignol’s version of death continued to flourish, entering its purported “golden age” during the interwar period,  Ibid., 11.158 Ibid., 40.159 Ibid., 43.160 Ibid., 45.161 Ibid., 69.162 Ibid., 71.16360and would go on to weather another World War before finally petering out of existence in the 1960s.  What about this little theatre made it so resilient to a time that, by all accounts, should 164have been very unkind to it?   What unites these two moments, one of fin-de-siècle degeneration and one of wartime devastation, perhaps, is the stability promised by predictability. Theories of degeneration, and the accompanying ‘madnesses’ attributed to it by nineteenth-century psychiatrists, were inextricably linked to the very potent concepts of eugenics and social Darwinism. To degenerate was to lower oneself into the category of the subhuman, typically reserved for drunks, criminals, and non- whites. Scientific racism and degeneration are the same, even when applied to the population of  an imperialist society. What these concepts establish is a firm understanding of who a villain might be. The horror plays at the Grand-Guignol very often featured a madman, or a beast-like, hyper-violent, irrational murder, or a crazed scientist. In many plays, tragedy strikes randomly, caused by a single miscreant who is in some way othered from the rest of society. What this pattern suggests, is that these crimes, although they occur in the setting of French society, are not endemic to it. The threat of the degenerate, as much as it might be romanticized in Decadent literature, is a threat coming from the outside, from the margins, and it is a threat that can be identified easily through tropes and then dispelled.   Even in times of great unrest, there is a reassurance buried within the chaos of the Grand- Guignol, namely that the problems of Europe are caused by something beyond Europeans. The everyday Frenchman is permitted to still be good, if villains are confirmed to be, again and again, the result of unfortunate breeding and overindulgence. There is a comfort to monsters if  Hand and Wilson, Grand-Guignol, 16-17.16461one can be assured that the monsters are distinct from civilians. And, pragmatically, it helps to keep fighting a war if one can believe they are fighting monsters there too.   What the Grand-Guignol could promise, along with gore and shock, was that the villains could be readily identified, in the plays where they were relevant. When they were revealed, they would emerge as somehow separate, belonging to their own colony of lepers (in one play, this is actually the case), threatening society but oftentimes also being detained, and removed from it in the end, by death or authority. At the Grand-Guignol, bad things did not always happen to the right people, but they were always committed by them.  62Conclusion Curtain Call: The End of the Grand-Guignol and the Power of Futurity   The Grand-Guignol finally closed its doors in 1962, twenty years after weathering a second World War. Fascinatingly, as the theatre began to lose its appeal, many people blamed the war, as Max Maurey had expected when he sold the theatre in 1914. The articles predicting or justifying the theatre’s death rattle, like many of the articles that preceded them, cannot quite put their finger on why the Grand-Guignol was appealing, or why it was now losing that appeal. One article from 1962, entitled “Outdone by Reality,” reflects on the theatre’s closure, stating that “The last clotted eyeball has plopped onto the stage...The Grand Guignol is closed forever.” The article argues that for the theatre, World War II was the beginning of the end. They quoted the theatre’s last director, Charles Nonon, saying “‘We could never equal Buchenwald...Before the war, everyone felt that what was happening onstage was impossible. Now we know that these things, and worse, are possible in reality.’” The article’s suggestion is that the theatre was still what it had always been, but people’s tastes changed to no longer favour it. Nonon’s suggestion is even more perplexing. The statement “We could never equal Buchenwald” can be understood in a couple of different ways. For one, based on what he said afterwards, he might have meant that people had lost interest because the Grand-Guignol horrors have now become too real, and therefore undesirable. On the other hand, Nonon might be suggesting that the theatre simply cannot compete with the real-life sensationalization of recent war atrocities.  165 This second interpretation is more thoroughly explored in an article from 1957. In it, the journalist writes that some “connoisseurs fear that...[the theatre] can no longer compete with the  “Outdone by Reality.” Time Magazine, Nov. 30, 1962. 16563illusions of the movies or the real horrors of the twentieth century.” He also cited the fact that people, apparently, no longer fainted at the Grand-Guignol, which he believed was an indicator that, in the words of one playwright, “‘It is becoming more and more difficult to scare people.’” The theatre, it would seem, “no longer [had] a monopoly on bloodshed, tortures and similar acts of sadism.”  One historian, Mel Gordon, took things further in this direction, arguing that both 166World Wars actually served as inspiration for new ways violence could unfold onstage, and the theatre finally closed when it could no longer satisfy the population’s ever-increasing hunger for the gruesome.  167 Another article from even earlier stated that “The war made horror trite and started emptying the Grand Guignol’s seats.”  What is so fascinating about these articles is that their 168reasoning is exactly what one might expect: that the real-life terrors of war made the Grand- Guignol utterly unappealing. If this is the reason, though, why did horror movies flourish in its place? If this is the reason, why didn’t the theatre close its doors in 1914, like Maurey expected it would? Surely that war was awful enough.   We can forgive the journalists for their equivocation, of course, because the theatre’s successes and its failures do not untangle easily. Neither of these perspectives are entirely satisfactory, for the simple reason that they are simultaneously believable and antithetical. The problem cannot be solved, mayhaps, from only looking in one direction. Both main arguments: that the theatre had become distasteful, or not tasty enough, are interpretations of how the people   P.E. Schneider, “Fading Horrors of the Grand Guignol,” The New York Times Magazine, March 18, 1661957,  Gordon, The Grand Guignol, 24, 31.167 “Paris Writhes Again,” Time Magazine, Jan. 16, 1950, 16864of Paris understood their recent past of wartime violence. We must remember, however, that the past is only one aspect of how an individual or a society might come to understand history. Considering positionally as a whole, the importance of the future becomes more prominent. In a more contemporary article, historian Dipesh Chakrabarty suggests that our understanding of the past is dependent on an assumption of continuity, essentially, it is dependent on an assumed, or guaranteed, future.  The current climate crisis, however, confounds this assumption, and 169Chakrabarty asks us: what happens to our understanding of history, and to our understanding of our present, when our future is in serious jeopardy? His answer, is that one destroys the other: an uncertain present, which is to say, a present without a future, becomes “deeply destructive of our general sense of history.”  Such ruptures in historical continuity serve as breaking points where 170people become heartbreakingly aware of the world they are inheriting. Without the promise of constant improvement, or the promise of a better ‘someday,’ the present, and also the past, become an even greater source for shame, frustration, and anger. If one shifts their perspective, and sees themselves not in the middle of history, but barrelling towards its end, everything changes. The past feels like a trap, charmless and full of ill-intent. A paltry inheritance.   I have been working to establish a connection between death and entertainment that personally confounds me. Fundamentally, it has to do with stories: which ones we tell, which ones we seek out, which ones we care to listen to. What I have seen, and what I have shown you,  Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 169197.  Ibid., 198.17065is that the Parisians of the fin-de-siècle flitted like ghoulish moths around the Paris morgue, the sickly green lamps of the Café du Néant, and the Grand-Guignol. They nibbled at the edges of  the faits divers. For 65 years, it was these moths that found themselves so interested in the macabre, where elsewhere such attractions failed.   History is, by nature, a dark subject. Morbid, gloomy, ghoulish. The times we reach for, and the times that garner the most popular interest, are often bitter times. And truly, what times haven’t been bitter? As André de Lorde asked, what times haven’t offered their share of morbid entertainment? Whether such attractions be symptomatic or not of dark times is, I think, beside the point, and probably impossible to prove. Instead, the Grand-Guignol, and other such dark amusements should function merely as entry points into the broader world of positionality. In my mind, at least, the coincidence of the Great War, and the Grand-Guignol’s popularity seems uncanny, unnatural, and illogical. There are many ways one might attempt to understand the theatre’s success, and most scholars have tried, parenthetically, to offer some explanation. Felicia Ruff proposes that, because the horror plays were alternated with comedies, the Grand-Guignol encouraged audience members to find humour in every play on the program, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, to find terror in all as well. Ruff suggests that the Grand-Guignol’s effect cannot be parsed out by looking at individual plays, but by considering the experience of the night’s events as a whole. The overwhelming impression, then, is not one of mere horror, but of emotional extremes: of fear and of giddy enjoyment. The conflation of horror and humour that the Grand- Guignol permits, then, allows for audience members to laugh in the face of catastrophe, tragedy, 66or evil, without having to feel bad for the very amoral and unsympathetic characters they encounter.   171 Another possibility is that the Grand-Guignol distinguishes itself from reality—although its plays undoubtably prey upon ‘realistic’ fears and psychological thrills—by making each death theatrical. In contrast to the impersonal, mechanized killing of World War I, the deaths at the Grand-Guignol, in a perverted way still give the characters their due. No matter how gruesome or unfortunate their deaths may be, no character at the Grand-Guignol expires without flourish, fanfare, interest, or applause. Nor are these deaths final, allowing a star like Paula Maxa to proudly proclaim that she was the most assassinated woman in the world.   Or perhaps it is a comfort, in a world that seems unfair and desolate, to see others fall into misfortune worse than one’s own. Perhaps a seed of cruelty motivates those who watch from their little seats. Or perhaps instead a seed of anger, curiosity, boredom, or hope.   The most probable and fair answer is, of course, that there is no clean explanation: and that in actuality, there was a great amount of diversity among audience members, and probably (as there so often is) a disconnect between the author, the performers, and the audiences’ understanding of what it was they were participating in. Most attendees probably didn’t think too much about how these actions might be remembered, or scrutinized, one hundred years later.   What does seem to be the case, though, is that “‘Paris without theatre would not be Paris’” as Guillot de Saix reported in an issue of La rampe from 1918, in which he interviewed theatre directors about their thoughts on the place of musical performance during wartime.  The 172 Ruff, “The Laugh Factory?: Humour and Horror at Le Théâtre du Grand Guignol,” 64-74.171 Rachel Moore, Performing Propaganda, 3. 17267Grand-Guignol was challenging, salacious, and disturbing at the same time that it was chic and iconic. The type of entertainment it offered could be found on nearby streets as well, and was not confined merely to the theatre. It was considered untimely as much as it was of its time, even by  its contemporaries, because it did not merely reflect on its present moment: it projected the future. Like the ghost projections at the Café du Néant, the Grand-Guignol served a small, vile tasting something of a terrible, cataclysmic future, tapping into the strange excitement found in many fin-de-siècle ruminations on degeneration. The Grand-Guignol presented a world on the cusp of collapse, and in that moment of penultimence, as Maxa observed, everything was cause for celebration. It’s appeal lay in the experience of anticipation and dread, which was exactly the appeal of degeneration, and because of this, both were future-oriented mediums. The resounding eagerness for doom was also a resounding curiosity for whatever might come next. I can think of no lovelier example of this particular excitement for the unknown than Max Nordau’s simple question, which I shall leave you with: “What shall be considered good to-morrow—what shall be beautiful? 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