Valuing Cultural Participation: The Usefulness of the Eighteenth-Century Stage

  • Jane MillingEmail author
Part of the New Directions in Cultural Policy Research book series (NDCPR)


This chapter examines eighteenth-century examples of cultural participation as useful challenges to the rhetoric of contemporary cultural policy on cultural participation. The historical case studies suggest new ways of addressing the question of value and valuation beyond utilitarian or instrumental benefits, remind us that the categorisation of legitimate and illegitimate culture is continually in flux, and suggest that cultural participation may sometimes be politically unruly. Examining three case studies—John Dennis’s defence The Usefulness of the Stage (1698), the repercussions of the Stage Licensing Act of 1737, and the Chinese Festival theatre riots of 1755—exposes the complex stakes of cultural participation in historical actuality, rather than only in terms of intellectual history, and broadens the palette of our rhetoric about cultural participation. The unrealised potential of eighteenth-century discourses offers new ways to think about the fuller experience of cultural participation.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DramaUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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