The Great Cat Massacre (Basic Books Classics)

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9780465015566: The Great Cat Massacre (Basic Books Classics)

In this dazzling series of essays, Robert Darnton exhumes the strange and wonderful world views of the ordinary and extraordinary people inhabiting the cities, towns, and countryside of France in what we like to call The Age of Enlightenment.

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From the Back Cover:

"The funniest thing that ever happened in the printing shop of Jacques Vincent, according to a worker who witnessed it, was a riotous massacre of cats." So begins Robert Darnton's exploration of the violent rituals practiced by artisans in mid-eighteenth century France. In a series of elegantly rendered essays, Professor Darnton exhumes the strange and wonderful world views of the ordinary and extraordinary people inhabiting the cities, towns and countryside of France in the Age of Enlightenment. Ranging from the grim folklore of the French peasantry to the romantic sensibilities binding Rousseau to his provincial bourgeois readers, Darnton conveys ways of thinking and feeling long misunderstood. In evoking the exotic and the commonplace in the culture of eighteenth century Frenchmen, Darnton invites the reader to ponder such questions as why a group of Parisian craftsmen found the massacre of cats so funny and how jokes worked among the workers of the old regime. The Great Cat Massacre is a kaleidoscopic view of a culture both familiar and strange. In this book Robert Darnton administers a necessary and unforgettable dose of culture shock.

From the Inside Flap:

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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