collection which Darnton has so successfully mined over the years. Some of them incidentally, is the chapter dealing with the great cat massacre, which as. THE GREAT. CAT MASSACRE. AND OTHER EPISODES. IN FRENCH. CULTURAL HISTORY. Robert Darnton. BASIC. B. BOOKS. A Member of the Perseus. The literature itself, Darnton asserts that when analysing popu- like all literature The Great Cat Massacre of Rue Saint-Séverin10 past always contains a ‘silent.

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The great cat massacre and other episodes in French cultural history

The Great Cat Massacre is the fourth and the most popular scholarly book written by the American cultural historian, academic librarian, and specialist of eighteenth-century France, Robert Darnton b. The book is considered an example of how scholars can apply an anthropological methodology to existing source material. As Darnton shows, this task requires a detailed contextual analysis of a given subject, alongside an acute reading of the particular source that has chosen as its representative.

In the early s, massacrw process exemplified an emerging historical tradition that was—and indeed still is—known as Cultural History.

For this reason, Cat Massacre either grext whole or just its title chapter is regularly assigned in both undergraduate and graduate Historiography classes across the country. Over thirty years later, the work is still an mqssacre of Cultural History.

The Great Cat Massacre is a straight-forward and tidy book. In format, it is similar to a co-edited volume, though it has only one contributor or author. The massacge is composed of six chapter-length essays that are bookended by a short introduction and conclusion.

Each of the main chapters ranges in length from to pages. They are all centered on a different primary source from the era of prerevolutionary France; and, in most cases, an excerpt of that particular source is appended to the end of its respective chapter.

The Great Cat Massacre – Wikipedia

The first chapter is about the Tales of Mother Gooserecorded and published in by the Mwssacre author Charles Perrault. Darnton compares several fables from this French collection with their English, Italian, and German counterparts in hopes of isolating an element that is distinctly French in a set of stories that is structurally universal. Darnton concludes that this element—tricksterism—reflects a peasantry that is coping with an unpredictable era of Malthusian misery sans the morals and philosophy of the Enlightenment.

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The second chapter of Cat Massacre is both the title chapter and the most famous piece of the larger work. Darnton argues that a close study of the cat massacre offers historical lessons that extend far beyond its explicit content.

Some of these lessons include: It was written in by an anonymous, middle-class citizen. Darnton shows how the organizational shifts of the manuscript—from a procession of dignitaries, to a set of estates, to a style of living—reveal an attempt by the author to cope with a changing cultural world, one that defied all previous frameworks.

In this piece, Darnton shows how a close examination of the files reveals an intricate world of patronage, judgment, libel, espionage, and categorization, as well as the emergence of a new class of Enlightenment intellectuals who were increasingly atheistic.

Darnton uses this source to show how the writings of certain popular authors, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau, influenced the way that a new generation of readers were interpreting the cultural milestones of their lives, such as falling in love, getting married, and bearing children. Without a doubt, Cat Massacre is one of the most exceptional History books that has ever been written.

Rarely does a work of History succeed at being so educational and so captivating at the very same time. Each chapter is an isolated case-study in its own right. Indeed, each of them could have succeeded as stand-alone, journal articles. Moreover, they are all compelling, hilarious, insightful, and well argued.

While the gruesome and burlesque nature of the massacre might offend the sensibilities of modern readers, it makes perfect sense when cast in the light of its underlying historical circumstances. Darnton is careful to leave his readers with meaningful takeaways at the conclusion of each chapter.


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

For instance, consider the chapter about the Montpellier procession of dignitaries. Darnton states that each dignitary has their own designated placement, musical accompaniment, and color-coded garb. As he concludes, these illustrate a conscious manipulation of an urban society that was based upon a rigid social superstructure, rather than a sense of geography, infrastructure, or history.

All things considered, Darnton succeeds in each of his six chapters with his stated purpose. He contextualizes a primary source within a greater culture, and then reflects that source back upon the culture in a way that is meaningful and compelling. In doing so, Darnton creates an image of French culture in the Old Regime that is non-linear, non-elitist, anthropological, and kaleidoscopic.

Despite its prominence in the title and in popular culture, the namesake chapter amounts to less than one-ninth of the entire text only 29 of pages.

Although this title is useful as a shocking and curious hook, it elevates what might be the weakest chapter of the entire collection to the spotlight. But perhaps this critique is also a complement. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account.

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