In the Public Eye: A History of Reading in Modern France, 1800-1940 (Princeton Legacy Library)
James Smith Allen
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Robert Darnton, Roger Chartier, and others have written much on the history of reading in the Old Regime, but this is the first broad study of reading to focus on the period after 1800. How and why did people understand texts as they did in modern France? In answering this question, James Allen moves easily from one interpretive framework to another and draws on a wide range of sources--novels, diaries, censor reports, critical reviews, artistic images, accounts of public and private readings, and the letters that readers sent to authors about their books. As he analyzes reading "in the public eye," the author explores the formation of "interpretive communities" during the years when reading silently and alone gradually became more common than reading aloud in a group. In the Public Eye discusses printing, publishing, literacy, schooling, criticism, and censorship, to study the social, cultural, economic, and political forces that shaped French interpretive practice. Examining the art and act of reading by different audiences, it discloses the mentalities of literate people for whom few other historical records exist. The book will be essential reading for those interested in modern French history, post-structuralist literary theory and criticism, reader-response theory and criticism, and social and intellectual history in general.
Originally published in 1991.
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the novels of the earliest prose realists. To compensate for this interpretive intrusion—one that can and should be considered by future histories—the present study deliberately examines only the reading experiences contemporary with the publication of each title. Each interpretation was therefore most likely focused on the selected work, permitting more precise study of text, context, and their interaction. These case studies illuminate the readings of various genres (as in Chapters 8 and 9) as
industry.44 Pornographic and subver sive, hence illicit, titles were not listed, nor were the numerous pirated editions of successful literary works. Foreign publishers such as the Belgians contributed to this large underground market before the bilateral agreements leading to the Berne Convention of 1886 that finally protected the international copyrights of French authors.45 Moreover, the rapid variation in the figures from year to year is not necessarily significant (see Table 1.1). Like the
in active readership par allels the ceilings evident in the school-enrollment figures and in the produc tion of print. Apparently, data on literate activities reflect a "stalemated" so ciety. Limits to actual readership appear to be another feature of a culture stalled until the multiple shocks of World War II and the later development of a postindustrial economy; it was historical events of such magnitude, together with cheap paperbacks and more extensive secondary education, that made
this fate in 1840 when Fr6derick Lemaitre, playing the leading role of a convicted thief, sported a toupee that made him look too much like the king.14 The 1848 Revolution freed the press and the stage from the July Monarchy's regulations.15 Among the first acts of the Provisional Government headed by Alphonse de Lamartine was to suppress the stamp duty on newspapers; another measure ended preliminary readings and administrative penalties, reduced the amount of caution money required of all
pleaded the extenuat ing circumstances of the authors' extreme youth. 80 Similarly, the attorneys defending both Flaubert and Baudelaire actually argued from the same ideo logical perspective as the prosecution. The works, they contended, were use76 Besides the dossiers in AN F21,966-95 and AJ13,1050, see La Censure sous Napoleon III; Commission chargee de reunir, classer et publier les papiers saisis aux Tuileries, Papiers secrets du Second Empire (Brussels, 1871), vol. 1, pt. 3:36-50;