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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Log In Sign Up. It uses immersion in entirely on textual accounts of the the culture; it interviews and observes liv- ing people and communities, interacting in past. Literary texts are one of these textual ways that are not possible with any but the sources.

While they may only contain a most recent history. It does not depend on one source for its interpretation, or indeed minimum of useful detail for the politi- on one type of source. This means that anthropology can only be partially applied cal historian, there is much to be found to history.

It will look into the debate in this can be a hindrance for historians the s surrounding the work of Robert working in many other forms of history, Darnton in the area,1 in his application of for the purposes of the use of literary texts anthropological and semiotic theory to as a source for popular cultural history this the subject.

The literature itself, Darnton asserts that when analysing popu- like all literature, was aimed a speciic lar cultural history, the historian needs to audience who thought in a particular way. Is text, or even a group of texts and then anthropology even suitable to use in order using them to describe a wider society in to understand the popular culture of, say, this manner can lead to a distorted picture. The answer to this use of anthropological theory in archaeol- is more complicated than a simple yes or ogy, of going too massace with too little evi- no.

The people of the past in some ways dence. Their world was both familiar audience for a literary text may often only and unfamiliar to us in equal measures. They do this by keeping breat and his wife awake at night with cat calls, leading dzrnton master to order them to kill the alley cats.

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

The mistress and master react in different ways. The master Anthropology is a far from uniied disci- is more cqt with the loss of working pline, with many different lines of thought time, whereas the mistress sees it darntoj a grave all having proponents; and there are also insult.

The workers glory on the incident constant revisions within the subject. It is evident from the in the printing trade, which he had been text that infrastructural changes were lead- involved in throughout his working life. Superstructural changes similar to that of Benjamin Franklin et al. This desire to re- There are a number of literary themes turn to a perceived golden age, real or not, common to the period to be found in the was common in all popular unrest darntob the story.


The tices would have struck a chord with the journeymen were unhappy at their loss of literate working class who had endured status in the workplace, lack of job security their nassacre apprenticeships. These exaggerated serve of the increasingly distant bourgeois. The mis- possible generic sources.

It is points out that they have victimized help- the portrayal of its setting and its inhabit- less creatures in order to get at the per- ants that is important. It gives an insight ceived source of their dificulty, i. How far LaCapra all agree. Where they disagree is exactly into that society may be penetrated on the level of massavre attached to the ac- is a different matter.

The society was obvi- tions by those involved. They of the virtuoso performance put in by are still greta and distrusted mxssacre many some of the workers in the manipulating today.

Perhaps if Darnton consulted socio- of these symbols. For him, the cat is of ut- logical sources on the matter he might real- most importance in this system of symbols.

The cat is a very deftly melded actions from a number of symbolic animal. It would have had a high their popular festivals in order to increase sexual symbolic value then as now.

The appli- over their livelihoods. The domestic cat cation of symbolic values from differing represented the excesses of the bourgeois, periods of time to this particular story is with the cat being treated better than risky. As such, the meant to someone in the Sixteenth Century conlict mqssacre be seen as a conlict between carried the same meaning to someone liv- the two liminal elements associated with ing in the Eighteenth. Converse- The point he makes on the need to deine ly, the incident saw also saw them move the instances of behaviour in the text on further away from the household, as their the basis of the speciic way they were actions led to them being accepted into the assembled or produced rather than their massaxre micro-social zone occupied by categorization according to remote resem- the journeymen blances to codiied forms among the reper- tory of Western folk inluences30 is cer- The fact that the incident was thought to tainly valid.

The danger of order to understand over-analysis has been mentioned already. It is the subjectivity of the the people of the time, and masswcre this might analyst that is the problem, as it is going suggest xarnton the characters in the story to always shape their masszcre. Different were not the astute manipulators of sym- historians have different ideologies with bols that Darnton thought them to be.

Semiotics is of ability in manipulation symbols to the quite a modern discipline, and to say there cultures he studies. This further illustrates the conlict between rgeat material and symbolic forms of anthro- In conclusion, anthropology and semiot- pology in their use for cultural historical ics have to be used carefully in the analysis purposes.


Review of Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre – The Zamani Reader

It also illustrates the conlict of literary texts involving popular culture between textuality and anthropology when from the historic period. There is a severe used for these ends, as the over use of one danger of darntn and of going too can negate the effect of using the other. The examination of analysis and the study of the use of sym- the symbols used by those people under bols both have a role to play. The cultures of the past did manipulate 8. Not in the Nixonian sense of the symbols, and the case study used in the term though!

Darntonn had darntom Here is where textuality is important. The issue of double-subjectivity also needs For the full text of the story see to be borne in mind when thinking on Darnton,pp. The subjectivity of the original A phenom- moeurs et usages singuliers des compa- enological approach to the matter could gnons imprimeurs,edited by Giles also prove fruitful, as would the use of Barber, oxford, massaxre The use of literary theory could also prove The debate so far has proven lacapra point out that it was written in quite interesting and thought provoking, the third person, rather than the irst, but is still a ield in which much more work hardly standard massare for an autobi- can be done, with new approaches to be ography.

However, caesar also wrote in tried. In his book the Great cat Mas- 88 and lacapra,p.

Marx is quoted or invoked on the mat- 2. No anthropological discussion is ter.

It could no exception. Darnton,pp Flannery et al jassacre examples of this, or The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. Basic Books, New York, It was found to be hilarious by No.

The great cat massacre and other episodes in French cultural history

Having spent a large portion of vat life working Geertz, C. The Interpretation of Cultures. Maasacre Literary History, Vol. Reading the Past, Cambridge University Press, Bibliography La Capra, D. Popular Culture in Early Modern Modernism. Scolor Press, Aldershot, The Journal of Modern History, Vol.

Introducing Semiot- and advice. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Click here to sign up. Help Center Find new research papers in:

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