The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History

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When the apprentices of a Paris printing shop in the 1730's held a series of mock trials and then hanged all the cats they could lay their hands on, why did they find it so hilariously funny that they choked with laughter when they reenacted it in pantomime some twenty times? Why in the 18th century version of "Little Red Riding Hood" did the wolf eat the child at the end? What did the anonymous townsman of Montpelier have in mind when he kept an exhaustive dossier on all the activities of his native city? These ...
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The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History

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Overview

When the apprentices of a Paris printing shop in the 1730's held a series of mock trials and then hanged all the cats they could lay their hands on, why did they find it so hilariously funny that they choked with laughter when they reenacted it in pantomime some twenty times? Why in the 18th century version of "Little Red Riding Hood" did the wolf eat the child at the end? What did the anonymous townsman of Montpelier have in mind when he kept an exhaustive dossier on all the activities of his native city? These are some of the provocative questions Robert Darnton attempts to answer in this dazzling series of essays that probe the ways of thought in what we like to call "The Age of Enlightenment."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465015566
  • Publisher: Perseus Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Series: Basic Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Lexile: 1320L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library. A MacArthur Fellow, he is the author of the National Book Critics Circle award-winning The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction 3
1 Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose 9
2 Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Severin 75
3 A Bourgeois Puts His World in Order: The City as a Text 107
4 A Police Inspector Sorts His Files: The Anatomy of the Republic of Letters 145
5 Philosophers Trim the Tree of Knowledge: The Epistemological Strategy of the Encyclopedie 191
6 Readers Respond to Rousseau: The Fabrication of Romantic Sensitivity 215
Conclusion 257
Notes 265
Index 285
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2006

    A book to learn from.

    This book, while often entertaining, isn¿t written to please the masses. It develops ideas in an almost ridiculously slow fashion. However, the knowledge that one can gain from this author is amazing. The fairy tales give a previously unknown insight into the thoughts of French peasants, the Cat massacre itself plays out the peasant¿s relationship with the bourgeois, and explanations of Rousseau provide a caricature of the 18th century French intellectual. This may sound trivial nevertheless, the mentalities explained build the framework for one of the most influential historical events of all time: the French Revolution. Understanding the ¿why¿ of these events, while often impossible, can only be achieved through the thorough analysis of the way people thought. Darnton does this more than adequately.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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