French Banned Books in International Perspective

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:00 AM
Ontario Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Simon F. Burrows, University of Leeds
Despite the caveats raised by the previous papers, this paper will reveal that a close, chronologically and geographically / internationally comparative study of the banned literature traded by the STN can radically revise our understanding of the illegal sector and its wider historiographical implications. It will show that many banned books in Darnton’s survey were not available through the STN, which has an undeserved reputation as a supplier of clandestine literature. But it also shows that markets for French banned books were geographically segregated (the French really do appear to have read more pornography than other nations, even francophone ones) and sales were chronologically nuanced, too. Such findings can be used to offer powerful new critiques of the theory of the desacralisation of the French monarchy; whereas comparative studies based on keyword searches of the STN database throw important new light on the spread of enlightenment texts and discourses.