Beloved as the city of light, Paris in the nineteenth century sparked the acclaim of poets and the odium of the bourgeois with its distinctive sounds. Street vendors bellowed songs known as the Cris de Paris that had been associated with their trades since the Middle Ages; musicians itinerant and otherwise played for change; and flâneurs-writers, fascinated with the city's underside, listened and recorded much about what they heard. Aimée Boutin tours the sonic space that orchestrated the different, often conflicting sound cultures that defined the street ambience of Paris. Mining accounts that range from guidebooks to verse, Boutin braids literary, cultural, and social history to reconstruct a lost auditory environment. Throughout, impressions of street noise shape writers' sense of place and perception of modern social relations. As Boutin shows, the din of the Cris contrasted economic abundance with the disparities of the capital, old and new traditions, and the vibrancy of street commerce with an increasing bourgeois demand for quiet. In time, peddlers who provided the soundtrack for Paris's narrow streets yielded to modernity, with its taciturn shopkeepers and wide-open boulevards, and the fading songs of the Cris became a dirge for the passing of old ways.
"Boutin transforms our understanding of nineteenth-century Parisian soundscapes, offering lively discussions of first-hand accounts of street cries, taking the unique perspective of the peddler. City of Noise offers a real sense of how noisy Paris was and how this affected its citizens going about their daily business."
--Helen Abbott, University of Sheffield
"Exploratory and rich in its investigation of multi-sensory critical methods as well as in its pursuit of the aural flaneur."--French Studies
"In an innovative effort to provide an auditory history of Paris, Boutin mined the works of 19th-century writers, poets, composers, and painters for descriptions of or images evoking the cris de Paris. Recommended."--Choice
"Readers from all disciplines will appreciate Boutin's elegant prose and her convincing argument that the City of Light has always been a city of sound."--Canadian Journal of History
"Boutin convinces us both of the possibility and the value in probing the sounds of the city of light in the nineteenth century."--Nineteenth Century Contexts
"This richly documented and timely book makes an important contribution to studies in sensory history and enriches our understanding of the context in which nineteenth-century French poetry developed, illuminating the visceral shocks of modernity which writers placed at the heart of their work."--Nineteenth Century French Studies