Robert Choate Darnton
Robert Choate Darnton is a literary and cultural historian, columnist, author, MacArthur Fellow, and the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian Emeritus at Harvard University, having served last year also as a Fellow at the Institut d’études avancées in Paris. He was recently awarded (in June 2017) an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford for the significance of his life’s work. A former president of the International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies and longtime board member of the Voltaire Foundation, Dr. Darnton’s contributions to the history of the French Enlightenment are so significant that an entire volume of the landmark journal in the field, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, was once devoted to essays on his work and remains one of the best selling books in the 60-year history of the series. Robert Darnton’s most recent book is Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature, published in 2014. He is next book, A Literary Tour de France: The World of Books on the Eve of the French Revolution, is set for pubication on February 2, 2018 by Oxford University Press.
Dr. Darnton 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, when he became Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library at Harvard. 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 Robert Darnton’s many honors are a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the “Genius” prize), a National Book Critics Circle Award, election to the French Legion of Honor, the National Humanities Medal conferred by President Obama in February 2012, and the Del Duca World Prize in the Humanities awarded by the Institut de France in 2013.
Robert Darnton is a prolific author who has written and edited numerous books, includingThe 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 18 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 Case for Books (2009), The Devil in the Holy Water, or The Art of Slander in France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (2009), Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010), and Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (2014).
Dr. Darnton is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and serves as a Trustee of the New York Public Library.
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Published on April 19, 2018