A context for literature

Making the News: Modernity and the Mass Press in Nineteenth-Century FranceMaking the News: Modernity and the Mass Press in Nineteenth-Century France by Jeannene M. Przyblyski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

These ten essays tell not only about how the modern "news" paper came to be, but also how it shaped the conditions for the creation of the vast and expanding literature of 19th century France. Émile de Girardin (1802-1881) had a lot to do with both phenomena: he created the first paper which claimed to be nonpartisan (and thus called simply "La Presse"), cut the price in half (to the outrage of his competitors, one of whom challenged him to a duel for disloyal competition), and financed the publication mainly by filling the pages with advertising; he thus expanded circulation far beyond the privileged, monied élite, and gained the revenue to pay writers including Balzac, Sue, Gautier and a great many others.
Besides Girardin, a reader can learn here about Daumier's battles (through his caricatures) with Louis-Philippe and Louis Napoléon, and about such colorful journalists as Émile Pouget (1860-1931), who employed deliberately obscene and comical working-class vernacular to attack everybody in power.
What I missed was any discussion of the press during the Paris Commune (March-May, 1871), when over a score of new papers with enormous circulation flourished briefly, with editors including Jules Vallès (Le Cri du Peuple), Maxime Vuillaumine (Le Père Duchene) and Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray (author of the monumental Histoire de la Commune). There is however an essay by Przyblyski on the post-Commune manipulation of photographs and documents by Eugène Appert to contribute to the myth of the "pétroleuses", the crazed women incendiaries who supposedly created most of the destruction of Paris in the last days of the Commune — and who, if they existed at all, must have been very rare.

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