This paper explores the phenomenon of “jaytalking,” a popular type of urban speech in Paris during the fin-de-siècle, the usual form of which was graffiti written on the streets and other public spaces of the city. It explores the forms that graffiti took, the spaces used for jaytalking, the types of messages left by jay-talkers, as well as some of the discernable traits of the authors of graffiti and their readers. It examines this graffiti—whether political, obscene, sincere, humorous, or just plain cranky—as a means by which ordinary Parisians hijacked the city street, creatively resisting the limited and sanctioned uses of that space and turning it into a canvas for their opinions, resentments, and rage. And it asserts that city streets in the late nineteenth-century, despite their careful regulation by the Paris police force, continued to be places of inventiveness, defiance, anger, humor, and self-expression.


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pp. 855-880
Launched on MUSE
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