Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

Overview

Robert Darnton's work is one of the main reasons that cultural history has become an exciting study central to our understanding of the past.
His latest book vibrates with the strange political and literary energies of ancien régime France. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France traces the merging of philosophical, sexual, and anti-monarchical interests into the pulp fiction of the 1780s, banned books that make fascinating ...
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Overview

Robert Darnton's work is one of the main reasons that cultural history has become an exciting study central to our understanding of the past.
His latest book vibrates with the strange political and literary energies of ancien régime France. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France traces the merging of philosophical, sexual, and anti-monarchical interests into the pulp fiction of the 1780s, banned books that make fascinating reading more than two centuries later.
French literature of the eighteenth century means to us today Rousseau and Voltaire and the "classic" texts that, we imagine, gave rise to the Revolution. Yet very few of the standard works of the Enlightenment were as widely read as books whose names we have never heard, books that were the currency of a huge literary underground during the reign of Louis XVI. Included in this volume are Darnton's translations of excerpts from three of these works.
After twenty-five years of research, Darnton has summarized his findings in one brilliant work that examines the reciprocal relationship between private literature and the public world, the (illegal) spread of Enlightenment thought, and the interesting possibility that the writings of some not-so-famous authors contributed to the fall of the French aristocracy.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
A gripping portrait of the social, literary, and political dynamics at work in prerevolutionary France.— Michiko Kakutani
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Darnton's book is a revelation and a delight. Read him and you will understand the true meaning and value of humanistic scholarship, of the way it opens windows to worlds closed down by time.”
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
“A gripping portrait of the social, literary, and political dynamics at work in prerevolutionary France.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this NBCC finalist, cultural historian Darnton examines subversive French works of the 1780s, arguing that these underground books were as influential as more classic Enlightenment fare. Apr.
Library Journal
With this volume, Darnton consolidates his position as one of the most innovative and influential historians of 18th-century France. For over 25 years, Darnton Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History, Princeton has been studying reading habits and book selling during the period often referred to as the Enlightenment. The present work is published conjointly with a companion volume, The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France, 1769-1789. The latter gives statistical details for what Forbidden Bestsellers covers more descriptively. The gist of what Darnton says is that philosophes like Voltaire and Rousseau had far less impact on French readers than did the anonymous authors of scandalous, libelous, treasonous, and/or pornographic works, most of which were smuggled into France from the Netherlands, Switzerland, or the German states. Taken together, they had a corrosive effect on all established values and practices and thus contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution. Very highly recommended for all libraries.-T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393314427
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 898,686
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Darnton is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library at Harvard University. His honors include a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Humanities Medal and election to the French Legion of Honor. He is the author of many books, including The Great Cat Massacre and The Kiss of Lamourette and The Forbidden Best-sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables, Maps, and Figures
List of Illustrations
Introduction
I Forbidden Literature and the Literary Market
1 Philosophy Under the Cloak 3
2 Best-Sellers 22
II Key Texts
3 Philosophical Pornography 85
4 Utopian Fantasy 115
5 Political Slander 137
III Do Books Cause Revolutions?
6 Diffusion vs. Discourse 169
7 Communication Networks 181
8 The History of Political Libel 198
9 Reader Response 217
10 Public Opinion 232
IV "Philosophical Books": A Short Anthology
Therese Philosophe, ou memoires pour servir a l'histoire du P. Dirrag et de Mlle Eradice (Therese Philosophe, Or, Memoirs About the Affair Between Father Dirrag and Mademoiselle Eradice) 249
Probably 1748; probably written by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, marquis d'Argens
L'An deux mille quatre cent quarante, reve s'il en fut jamais (The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Was One)
"Amsterdam, 1771" Louis-Sebastien Mercier 300
Anecdotes sur Mme la comtesse du Barry (Anecdotes About Mme la comtesse du Barry) 337
"London, 1775," probably written by Mathieu-Francois Pidansat de Mairobert
Notes 391
Index 429
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