Robert Darnton Great Cat Massacre - booknotes on Chapters 2, 3, 4
Chapter 2 Workers Revolt - The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Severin Story of the great cat massacre told by Nicolas Contat, main figures - 2 fictionalized figures Jerome and Leveille, apprentices in the shop of Jacques Vincent.75 killing the cats as a way of getting back at the master, stood out as the most hilarious experience in Jerome’s career.75-7 But how could 18th C. mind find such cruelty hilarious? Certainly somewhat embroidered, but that is not important - what is important is what the story says about deeper mental structures.78 First off, cat massacre was a response to the master and his wife - who treated animals better than their apprentices.80 This period of guild life not as idyllic as some historians think - period of consolidation going on - restriction of number of masterships in printing guilds, which makes it that much harder to advance to a mastership.79 Second, masters starting to use alloues, underqualified printers who had not undergone apprenticeships, which threatened the more skilled journeymen - typical of commodification of labor prior to industrialization.80 volatility of work force - STN in 1762 hired and fired as needed for slack and fast paces of production.80 Remaining in the shop for one year qualified one as an “ancien” 81 Labor increasingly treated as commodities - bodies. Resentment of masters because they don’t “work” they are becoming more bourgeois in their disdain for lower orders (calling them lazy, undisciplined) and in their cultural habits (keeping pets, eating fine food, giving best food to cats and not others). Old mythology of guild as partnership between masters and journeymen was disappearing - increasing separation of life styles.82 But why kill cats? Charivaris and Carnival, opportunity for role reversal, drunken behaviour, etc. More specifically, while mocking a cuckold, youths often passed around a cat, tearing its fur to make it howl - German name for charivaris was Katzenmusik. Other festivals involved burning cats, chasing a flaming cat through the streets, burning a dozen cats in a basket at the top of a maypole (Metz, banned by local authorities in 1765)83-5 Guilds also had patron saints - Printers had St John Evangelist, and they celebrated on his feast day. Journeymen gradually excluded from the more formal ceremonies, but they continued to hold their own ceremonies their own, smaller chapels.85 These smaller ceremonies involved a code of conduct , with a sort kangaroo court to deal with violations of the code of conduct (brawling, insulting the name of the chapel, etc.)85 Other formal rites of passage conducted in these printer journeyman chapel associations included entry in the shop, his exit, marriage, marked by payments, buying rounds of drinks, etc.86 Follow mock terms of honor, calling each Monsieur les imprimatuers, etc. 86 Lots of hazing of new apprentices - wild goose chases, not teaching him much, nasty chores, etc.88 Apprentices were able, however, to get away with “copies” jokes or pantomime stories because the elders tolerated a certain amount of horsing around, espeically if they found it amusing.88 When becoming a journeyman, Jerome is told the laws of the shop - maintain the wage rate under all circumstances, act faithfully and with probity in general but particularly to fellow journeymen. all other things are somewhat ok. 88-9 What about cats? They are something mysterious among animals, they have ritual value that others do not.90 Torture of animals popular in early modern Europe.90 cat killings are common in literature and in early modern culture.91 Looking at myths and folklore, some common themes - cats suggest witchcraft, and the classic defense against bewitching by a cat was to maim it - clip its ears, smash one of its legs, burn its fur, etc.94 Other superstitions about cats independent of witchcraft as well - and you could...
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