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Poetry and the Police

Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris
Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Nov. 2010. c.210p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674057159. $29.95. LIT
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In this concise and thought-provoking study, eminent scholar Darnton (Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor & Director of the University Library, Harvard; The Devil in the Holy Water; or, The Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon) has ably mined the available evidence surrounding the 1749 investigation and string of arrests for sedition known as the "Affair of the Fourteen" and produced a remarkable analysis of a subversive Parisian public discourse that openly attacked the king, his mistress, new taxes, and an unpopular peace treaty. Darnton lucidly reconstructs a world were information traveled through poems and songs set to familiar melodies; he reminds us that our world of instant communication, tweets, and 24-hour news cycles is not as distinctive as we may believe.
VERDICT With rich end matter that includes the lyrics of poems and songs as well as a link to a superb recording of some of the songs by cabaret artist Hélène Delavault, this interdisciplinary piece is highly recommended for serious students across the humanities as well as readers with an interest in 18th-century French culture and politics.

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