Jacques Bon-Homme and National Politics: Ethos and Audience in Seventeenth-Century Pamphlets
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History, Vol. 12, 1984, pp. 23-32.
10 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2014
Date Written: 1984
A number of fundamental problems remain in the way of providing a comprehensive analysis of pamphlets and pamphleteerng in Old Regime France. Our incomplete knowledge of the sizes of editions, the mechanisms of distribution, and author-patron relationships is one set of problems. Another stems from the complexity of the the texts themselves. Pamphlet authors often cultivated a baroque style of rhetoric, twisting their into elaborate figures of speech, sometimes beyond recognition. Many pamphlets, at least in the early part of the seventeenth century, were intentionally written in colloquial speech, and some even contain parodies of southern dialects. Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to interpretation is the rich undercurrent of allusions and citations to other pamphlets, to popular customs, to learned books, and "the whole cultural baggage of the epoch," to use Denis Richet's marvelous phrase.
One of the main questions that arises from these difficulties is the question of the audience. This is a particularly troubling issue for those who are concerned about the concrete political functions of pamphleteering. The identity of the "public" is especially obscure in the seventeenth century. Millions of pieces of pamphlet propaganda were published, yet there is precious little evidence as to who read them and how these readers reacted. Occasionally, we can learn from diplomatic correspondence that this or that pamphlet caused a reaction among high-level politicians. But what about the larger audience for whom the pamphlets were presumably written? The evidence available about patterns of literacy suggests that the readers were predominantly urban, but this is hardly a very satisfying solution to the problem of establishing the audience for printed propaganda.
Keywords: pamphlets, Old Regime France, literary history, national politics, audience, public, propaganda, diplomatic correspondence, politicians,
JEL Classification: L82, N83, N33, O52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation