City space and the politics of carnival in Zola's 'L'Assommoir'

Wilson, C. 2004. City space and the politics of carnival in Zola's 'L'Assommoir'. French studies. 58 (3), pp. 343-356.

TitleCity space and the politics of carnival in Zola's 'L'Assommoir'
AuthorsWilson, C.
Abstract

This article sheds new light on L’Assommoir by focusing specifically on the potentially subversive political references embedded in the carnivalesque incursion into city space by Zola’s working-class wedding-party from Montmartre. Zola’s choice of route through the city is by no means an arbitrary one. On the contrary, through a close reading of the text based on contemporary sources, it is argued that this incursion into the centre of Paris constitutes an allegory of the Commune’s struggle, and ultimate failure, to re-appropriate the city on behalf of the Parisian working class, as well as providing an ironic commentary on some of the political debates and preoccupations of the early Third Republic. It thereby also offers further insights into Zola’s own ideological stance. If the aim of naturalist fiction is to subject characters to the combined forces of ‘la race, le milieu et le moment’, these determinants are seen to take on a new dimension within the context of the contemporary collective memory of Paris and the Commune.

JournalFrench studies
Journal citation58 (3), pp. 343-356
ISSN0016-1128
Year2004
PublisherOxford University Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1093/fs/58.3.343
Publication dates
Published2004

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