Review-Sample #2 - Review of Colin Jones Pulling Teeth in...

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In his article “Pulling Teeth in Eighteenth-Century Paris,” Colin Jones examines the case of le Grand Thomas . Thomas was a legendary tooth-puller in the Paris of the early 1700s, a self- described “hero dentist” and “terror of the human jaw” much given to extravagant displays of theatricality and self-promotion (100). Jones’ project is to read le Grand Thomas as something more than an amusing footnote in the annals of medical history, and to place Thomas within his political, scientific, and social contexts. On the whole, the article is fascinating and beautifully written, vividly conjuring up the characters and conflicts of eighteenth-century France. Moreover, Jones succeeds in arguing for a nuanced, context-sensitive approach to a character like le Grand Thomas and to history in general. That said, occasionally Jones casts his net too wide, holding forth on myriad different subjects that he doesn’t fully develop. Also, the article’s organization is confusing, making it difficult to identify a clear argument. All in all, though, Jones provides an insightful, amusing look at politics, society, and, yes, tooth-pulling in eighteenth-century France. Jones’ presentation of le Grand Thomas himself is lively, interesting, and well supported with diverse sources. To be sure, the material lends itself to an engaging account, for Thomas was as eccentric as they come. Jones’ particular talent is in selecting citations from a wide-ranging assortment of primary sources: promotional handbills, police reports, travel diaries, private correspondence, plays, poems, engravings, and so on. He is especially adept at helping the reader interpret unconventional sources, such as the eighteenth-century engravings that are reproduced in the article. For instance, he draws attention to relevant details in an image of Thomas’ dental kiosk on the Pont-Neuf, from the large model of a molar hanging from the cart’s roof to the nearby statue of Henri IV (104). Moreover, Jones displays a gentle sense of humour that is
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Review-Sample #2 - Review of Colin Jones Pulling Teeth in...

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