The idea of a national theatre in its modern incarnation emerged during the eighteenth century, coinciding with the political and social turmoil of the French Revolution. Its intellectual and aesthetic origins thus can be traced to concerns with individual expression and national identity that came to light in relation to European Romanticism. Since that time, a myriad of public institutions, some of them quite massive and others more diminutive, have surfaced on the European theatrical landscape in accordance with the post-Enlightenment concept of a national theatre. They are designed to encourage a national repertoire. Curiously, these institutions have often predated the establishment of the nation-states whose interests they would come to represent. The disintegration of empires, the ensuing creation of nation-states (and, in some cases, their postcolonial deconstruction or collapse), the spread of cosmopolitanism and migratory and exilic movements all influenced the evolution of the national theatre. For Loren Kruger, consequently, the idea of a national stage, in its modern sense, exists within an inherently 'transnational field', in which varying claims to the authority and legitimacy of language, culture, locations, borders and audiences have all played a role in its conception.

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Copyright © 2012 Cambridge University Press. This book chapter first appeared in A History of Theatre in Spain.

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