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Reviewed by:
  • Lire Zola au xxie siècle by Aurélie Barjonet, Jean-Sébastien Macke
  • Robert Lethbridge
Lire Zola au xxie siècle. Sous la direction d’Aurélie Barjonet et Jean-Sébastien Macke. (Colloques de Cerisy. Littérature, 5.) Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2018. 470 pp., ill.

The title of this collective volume, bringing together the proceedings of the 2016 Cerisy colloquium focused on Zola, gestures towards the future. But its contributors are also retrospectively engaged. This is particularly true of the interview published here under the heading ‘De mémoire de descendants’ (Charles Dreyfus, Brigitte Émile-Zola, and Martine Le Blond-Zola), Marion Glaumaud-Carbonnier’s history of the annual literary pilgrimage to Médan, Jean-Yves Mollier’s statistically informed ‘Zola dans l’édition’, and studies of the representation of the writer in the press and in school textbooks. The most illuminating of such backward looks is Alain Pagès’s analysis of the only other occasion, exactly forty years earlier, when Zola was celebrated at Cerisy-la-Salle (see Le Naturalisme, ed. by Pierre Cogny (Paris: Union générale d’éditions, 1978)). For this not only evokes the explosive intellectual energy brought to bear on Zola’s work by the post-1968 generation of academics, but also allows one to identify the most glaring lacunae (notably in respect of genetic criticism) since filled by their successors. In stitching together the perspectives afforded by the twenty-seven pieces in the present volume, the prefatory essay by its joint editors makes an equally powerful case for the renewal it exemplifies. It has to be said, however, that Frédérique Giraud’s ‘Pour une sociobiographique de Zola’ is in effect a summary of her recent book (see French Studies, 72 (2018), 119–20), and Émilie Piton-Foucault’s ‘La Parabole des aveugles dans Les Rougon-Macquart’ a thematic extension of hers (see French Studies, 71 (2017), 120–22). A number of contributions simply build on what has been explored before: Michaël Rosenfeld’s ‘Scénographie et esthétique de la sexualité dans l’œuvre de Zola’ develops David Baguley’s ‘L’Indicible de la sexualité’ [End Page 469] (Nineteenth-Century French Studies, 27 (1998–99), 108–16); Sébastien Roldan’s ‘Quelques Notes sur la Seine chez Zola’ is no more than that; and Éléonore Reverzy’s reflections on Zola’s fictional cemeteries are unsurprisingly indebted to Naomi Schor (see French Studies, 36 (1982), 348–50). Céline Grenaud-Tostain’s detailing of what she calls ‘la rhétorique des corps’ (p. 391), manifested in the staging of hysteria, barely acknowledges previous scholarship. In some cases, overlap is the inevitable result of publication scheduling: Maria Scarpa’s ‘Pour une ethnocritique de Zola’, for instance, is a preview of the section of the special number of Les Cahiers naturalistes (92 (2018), 5–121) devoted to ‘Ethnocritiques zoliennes’. There remains an enriching miscellany of articles which specialists will need to consult, among them: Béatrice Laville, ‘Les Vertus romanesques de l’émotion’, its examples taken from Paris; Larry Duffy, ‘Zola et les humanités médicales: le(s) cas de Lourdes’; Chantal Pierre, ‘Zola, auteur empathique?’; and Lola Kheyar Stibler’s tracking of the psychological lexicon structuring La Joie de vivre. It is symptomatic of ‘the present state of Zola studies’, as the editors persuasively underline, that so much attention is now being directed to texts other than the Rougon-Macquart cycle. Extremely helpful to researchers are the synopses, at the end of this immaculately produced volume, of all the essays within it.

Robert Lethbridge
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge


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pp. 469-470
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