In The Heart in the Glass Jar: Love Letters, Bodies, and the Law in Mexico, William French focuses on love letters—written mostly by peasants, miners, and artisans—and their relevance in the judicial, social, and cultural milieus of Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, from 1870 to 1930. Love letters have been commonly used to dig into the private and intimate lives of the lettered population, on the assumption that only the upper-class minority was able to read and write. This book demonstrates that for the humble people of northern Mexico love letters not only “serve[d] as a powerful symbol” of courtship but also shaped new forms of mass writing such as the novel, the newspaper, and the love letter manual, contributing in this way to the construction of a robust “passionate public sphere” (pp. 4, 11). Drawing on an array of documents...

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