Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

by Robert Darnton
     
 

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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

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393314427
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/28/1996
Pages:
466
Sales rank:
1,448,926
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.04(d)

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