Robert Darnton will be coming to speak in the Seminar in Cultural History Wednesday, September 15, 2010, on “Blogging, Now and Then (in the 18th Century).”

Robert Darnton has been the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard University Library since 2007. He was educated at Harvard University (A.B., 1960) and Oxford University (B.Phil., 1962; D. Phil., 1964), where he was a Rhodes scholar. After a brief stint as a reporter for The New York Times, he became a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard. He taught at Princeton from 1968 until 2007. He has been a visiting professor or fellow at many universities and institutes for advanced study, and his outside activities include service as a trustee of the New York Public Library and the Oxford University Press (USA) and terms as president of the American Historical Association and the International Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Among his honors are a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award and election to the French Legion of Honor.

Professor Darnton has written and edited many books, including: The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie (1979, an early attempt to develop the history of books as a field of study); The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984, probably his most popular work, which has been translated into 16 languages); Berlin Journal, 1989-1990, (1991, an account of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East Germany); and The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Prerevolutionary France (1995, a study of the underground book trade). His latest books are The Devil in the Holy Water, or The Art of Slander in France from Louis XIV to Napoleon and The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future, both published in 2009. Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris will be published in the fall of 2010.

Dr. Darnton’s talk is entitled “Blogging, Now and Then (in the 18th Century).” Long before the Internet, Europeans exchanged information in ways that anticipated blogging. The key element of their information system was the “anecdote,” a term that meant nearly the opposite then from what it means today. Anecdotes, dispensed by “libellistes” and “paragraph men,” became a staple in the daily diet of news consumed by readers in eighteenth-century France and England. They were also pilfered, reworked, and served up in books. By tracking anecdotes through texts, we can reassess a rich strain of history and literature.