Prof Julia Prest

Prof Julia Prest

Deputy Head of School

Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 3646
Room 307
Office hours
On Teams, by appointment


Research areas

Julia Prest is Professor of French and Caribbean Studies. Prior to coming to St Andrews in 2009, she was Assistant Professor of French and Honorary Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at Yale University and Junior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford.  She wrote her PhD at the University of Cambridge having studied French and Music at the University of Birmingham.

Current and Recent Research

Julia Prest's research interests focus on early-modern French, francophone and Creole theatre, including ballet and opera, and she would welcome doctoral students interested in any aspect of early-modern theatre and society. Julia is currently working on the public theatre tradition in the former French slave colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) where, in the late eighteenth century, hundreds of works were performed in different towns by professional theatre troupes before mixed but segregated audiences. She is especially interested in the theatre audience, the links between enslaved people and the theatre, and the relationship between the public theatre and the French and Haitian Revolutions.  As part of her ongoing research, Julia Prest has put together, with support from The British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the University of St Andrews, a triilingual (French-English-Creole) website featuring a database of public performances of all plays, ballets and operas as documented in the local newspapers between 1764 and 1791: She is currently working with games designers at the University of Northampton on a 3D reconstruction of the 1770s Port-au-Prince playhouse, and is the founder of the Colonial-Era Caribbean Theatre and Opera Network, supported by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Network Grant.

Julia Prest has published a critical edition of the first play known to have been written in Martinique (and performed at least twice in Saint-Domingue): the anonymous comedy, Les Veuves créoles. She has also published articles on a number of different aspects relating to theatre in Saint-Domingue, including performances of Gluck’s Paris operas; white renditions of slave dance; a comparison of the performances and self-positioning of a white female performer and a female performer of colour; and blackface performance in Creole works.

Other Research

Julia Prest wrote her PhD thesis on Molière's comedy-ballets, comparing early performances at the French court (at which Louis XIV was always present and sometimes danced) with subsequent performances in the public theatre in Paris. Julia's second major project culminated in her monograph, Theatre under Louis XIV: Cross-casting and the Performance of Gender in Drama, Ballet and Opera (Palgrave, 2006; 2013). In her next monograph, Controversy in French Drama: Molière's Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence (Palgrave, 2014; 2016), she provides an in-depth account of Molière’s five-year struggle to have a ban on public performances of Tartuffe lifted (1664-69). Julia changes the terms of the debate by challenging received notions regarding the opposition between the sincere believer (vrai dévot) and the hypocrite (faux dévot); she also demonstrates that Tartuffe was itself a key locus for the struggle for influence among competing political and religious factions during the early reign of Louis XIV.  

Julia Prest has published on a variety of other, related subjects including witchcraft and the Affair of the Poisons, medical satire in the work of Molière, the castrato singer, and court ballet as a means of religious reconciliation during the Wars of Religion.  She has published scholarly critical editions of three plays and co-edited (with Guy Rowlands) The Third Reign of Louis XIV, c.1682-1715 (Routledge, 2017) and (with Joseph Harris) Guilty Pleasures: Theater, Piety, and Immorality in Seventeenth-Century France (New Haven, 2016).


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

Selected publications


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