This paper is a review of Robert Darnton’s book on French cultural history.
This paper is an examination of the recent field cultural history that Robert Darnton used to examine the study of 18th-century France. The author breaks down Darnton’s work, “The Great Cat Massacre,” by chapter in order to illustrate how his theory was designed to work. Each chapter is discussed in detail, examining both the strengths and weaknesses of the materials discussed. The author looks at methodology, and the inherent flaws that present themselves to the reader. The author looks at the problem of using narration and biography when looking at cultural history, which in their view, contradicts the goal that Darnton set out to accomplish. The author feels that this type of approach is best suited to the investigation of past events in history that are not fresh in our minds.
“Understanding a narration poses an entirely distinct set of problems to understanding an event; for one thing, it introduces the problem of reader expectations, which are determined by the previous development of the genre in which the narration is embedded. For this reason, Darnton’s analysis seems less compelling than the nature of the bizarre events he would have us believe really took place. Strangely enough, though, his anthropological method is most impressively applied in a chapter, which deals with what would seem to be far more ordinary events.”