Australian Journal of French Studies

Zola est-il un romancier naturaliste ?

Australian Journal of French Studies (2020), 57, (1), 154–162.

Abstract

‘Naturalism’; ‘naturalist’: the two labels are now used automatically in historical, critical, and educational parlance. However, far from illuminating Zola’s achievement, they have in fact obscured it. Despite Zola’s own preferred use of the terms, this article challenges their usefulness. Indeed, in light of the various distortions they have generated, and of the ways in which they have been used to discredit Zola for his alleged scientism, his populism, or even his lack of style, the article argues that Zola’s essence lies elsewhere: first, in his conception of a novel without social, organic, or linguistic limits. Second, in his specifically artistic personality, which combines the three basic features of literary creation: invention, composition, and writing. These qualities are informed, moreover, by an intuitive understanding of the four anthropological forces that govern the world: Sex, Death, Faith, and Art.

Naturalisme, naturaliste : ces deux mots, devenus des automatismes du langage historique, critique, pédagogique, au lieu d’éclairer le génie de Zola, lui sont dommageables. Cet article récuse leur validité – malgré l’emploi privilégié que Zola en a fait lui-même –, en raison des défigurations qu’ils ont suscitées, sous les griefs de scientisme, de populisme et de prosaïsme. La vérité de Zola est ailleurs : dans sa conception d’un roman sans frontières, ni sociales, ni organiques, ni langagières, et dans sa personnalité proprement artistique, où se rejoignent les trois dons fondamentaux de la création littéraire : l’invention, la composition et l’écriture. A quoi s’ajoute l’intuition des quatre forces anthropologiques qui gouvernent le monde : le Sexe, la Mort, la Foi et l’Art.

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Author details

MITTERAND, HENRI

MITTERAND, HENRI

MITTERAND, HENRI