Zola et la littérature naturaliste en parodies
Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze begins her book with the claim that parody is a tool 'permettant d'enrichir notre connaissance du naturalisme ou de l'éclairer d'une lumière nouvelle' (p. 10), and the second and third parts of this extensively researched and well-written study exemplify this approach. In the second part, 'Parodies de réception, parodies parasites?', Dousteyssier-Khoze presents a detailed and revealing analysis of contemporary parodies of both specific Naturalist texts (such as L'Assommoir and Nana) and Naturalism more generally. Her readings not only introduce a number of little-known yet significant texts, many of which are not easily available (some are usefully reproduced in the extensive appendix), but also examine precisely what this hitherto neglected literary genre — and she convincingly argues that it is a genre in its own right — reveals about how Naturalism was perceived and received in the 1870s and 1880s. In her third section, 'La Cinquième Colonne naturaliste', Dousteyssier-Khoze extends her exploration by examining how Naturalist texts, especially those produced in the later decades of the century when Zolian Naturalism was in decline, can be read as self-parodies of the movement with which they are most closely associated. A close and persuasive examination of works by writers including Céard, Hennique, Desprez, Huysmans and Mirbeau reveals that naturalist texts frequently contain within themselves a parodic mise en abyme, which can be read either as evidence of the end of Naturalism or as an attempt to either resuscitate or redefine the dying movement. Naturalism's (auto)parodies are an integral, even fundamental part of the movement, rather than an often neglected reaction to it.
By describing parody merely as a tool employed in her investigations of Naturalism, Dousteyssier-Khoze underestimates her own theoretical contribution to the study of parody itself. In the first part, 'Naturalisme et Parodie', Dousteyssier-Khoze presents an extensive appraisal of theories of parody, which students and scholars of parody will find invaluable. Drawing on a range of theorists of parody from both the French and Anglo-American traditions, Dousteyssier-Khoze goes on to elaborate her own notion of parodicité, which she then employs in the subsequent chapters of the book. According to Dousteyssier-Khoze, the parodicité of a text depends on the author's intention to produce a parody and on the reader's reception of the text as a parody. This emphasis on intentionality, which is central to Dousteyssier-Khoze's argument, may appear outmoded; however, Dousteyssier-Khoze [End Page 404] convincingly argues that it is in the very nature of parody, particularly the parodies of Naturalism with which she is concerned, to rely not only on the intentions of the author but also on the reader's reactions to these intentions and the complex relationship between the two that results: parody is one (perhaps the one?) area of literary production in which authorial intention must be taken into account.