The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History / Edition 1

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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 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: 9780394729275
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1985
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage Books ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.70 (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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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2004

    A series of short stories that explains early France

    I found this to be a charming and well-written book. It is based on a series of short stories that deals and illuminates the France of the late 1700 to modern readers without being pedantic. Darnton manages to write this in a humorous and entertaining way, while including historical data. It has helped me to understand French literature, culture and history. 'The Great Cat Massacre' is about how apprentices weren't treated very well, while the Madam had pampered cats. The apprentices snuck out on the roof and yowled like cats over the master's bedroom. Finally, the master told them to get rid of the cats, while he and his wife were gone. The apprentices killed lots of cats, starting with the wife's favorite. In spite of the grim subject, Darnton uses humor and lively language to explain how the apprentices were often ill-fed, and they had to watch the wife give her cats choice morsels. It also explains the strict guild rules that limited social mobility. Another chapter is the different interpretations of fairy tales by different cultures. We're all familiar with the dark German fairy tales, and I knew some French fairy tales but I wasn't aware of how their meanings had changed through cultural interpretation until I read this book. Darnton explains that the quick wit of the hero is the deciding factor in French fairy tales, while the English use magical intervention. Another chapter is on police reports about authors (trouble makers), booksellers and, even, book buyers, which made most university students suspect. I'm glad that I bought this bookbecause it has helped me to be a better reader and to think outside of the box, while being entertained.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2004

    zero stars if I could

    This has to be the worst book that I have ever read. It presents topics that we could care less about, goes into depth on them (75 pages on French fairy tales? who cares?),and then takes sidetracks on random topics that are as equally boring as the point the author is trying to make. The book has no flow to it whatsoever it jumps around touching on multiple points but never really enlightens the reader about what the author is trying to say. If you even think about picking up this book, just don't. Save yourself the time, money, and from the mental boredom that this book will impose on you.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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