Literary Theory and Criticism

on • The novels of the french writer Émile Zola ( 1840–1902 ) move toward a more extreme form of naturalism known as naturalism, taking its mention from its allegedly scientific pulsation to base its characters, events, and explanations on natural rather than supernatural or divine causes. possibly more than any early major literary figure, Émile Zola registered in his fiction and his critical theory the rising tide of scientific overture in the belated nineteenth century. Zola was profoundly conscious of these movements toward naturalism, toward the limitation of one ’ sulfur inquiries to the region of nature ( the kingdom of skill, as opposed to the region of supernature or the supernatural ), and he saw naturalistic literature as merely a natural extension and completion of a far broader positivist motion in recent history .
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As such, Zola was the leading figure of french naturalism. He wrote a cycle of twenty novels under the rubric of Les Rougon-Macquart, concerning the two branches of a kin, the Rougons and the Macquarts. Zola traced the “ natural and social history ” of this family through a number of generations, laying emphasis upon their behavior as influenced by heredity and environment. Some of the best know of these novels are L ’ Assommoir ( 1877 ), Nana ( 1880 ), and Germinal ( 1885 ). Zola ’ s essay The Experimental Novel ( 1880 ) attempted a justification of his own novelistic practice, and became the seminal manifesto of naturalism.

Zola makes it clearly at the beginning of his try that the inspiration and initiation of his arguments was Claude Bernard ’ s test Introduction à fifty ’ Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale, which had endeavored to show that music had a scientific basis, namely, the “ experimental method. ” 1 Bernard had argued that this method, already used in the study of inanimate bodies in physics and chemistry, should besides be used in the report of living bodies in the fields of physiology and music ( 2 ). basically, Zola sees Bernard ’ s undertake as a symptom of a larger pattern of intellectual exploitation : the nineteenth century, he remarks, is marked by a “ return to nature, ” to natural and scientific explanation of all phenomena. Zola wishes to argue for “ a literature governed by science. ” He wishes to extend Bernard ’ s arguments specifically to the kingdom of the fresh, thereby situating fiction and literature within this overall guidance of scientific advance. Where Bernard aims to extend scientific study into the kingdom of physiology and medicate, Zola desires to extend it even further, into the region of “ the passionate and intellectual life ” ( 2 ) .
What are the premises of the alleged experimental method ? According to Bernard, as reported by Zola, the experimentalist is distinguished from the bare observer in that the latter “ relates strictly and simply the phenomenon which he has under his eyes. .. He should be the photographer of phenomenon, his observation should be an exact representation of nature ” ( 7 ). The experimentalist, on the other hand, immediately intervenes in, and modifies, these phenomena for specific heuristic purposes, to confirm or disprove an experimental theme or hypothesis ( 6–7 ). The experimental method or experimental argue is “ based on doubt, for the experimentalist should have no preconceived idea, in the grimace of nature, and should constantly retain his liberty of think ” ( 3 ). Bernard, as quoted by Zola, distinguishes experimental reasoning from pedant question : “ it is precisely the scholastic, who believes he has absolute certitude, who attains to no results. .. by his impression in an absolute rationale he puts himself outside of nature. .. It is. .. the experimenter, who is always in doubt. .. who succeeds in mastering the phenomenon which surround him, and in increasing his ability over nature ” ( 26 ). Hence this scientific method overturns and rejects all former assurance : “ it recognizes no agency but that of facts. .. The experimental method is the scientific method which proclaims the liberty of think. It not merely throws off the philosophical and theological yoke, but it nobelium longer admits scientific personal authority ” ( 44 ). Zola accepts Bernard ’ sulfur portrayal of the stages of progress of the human mind, through “ palpate, reason, and experiment ” : at first, feel, which dominated reason, created theology ; then reason or philosophy, assuming the dominant function, engendered scholasticism ; last, experiment, or the discipline of natural phenomena, brought us to “ the objective reality of things. ” Hence the experimental method of skill is the completion of a historical development which is increasingly rational and naturalistic ( 33–34 ) .
The moment and refer major principle of skill, according to Bernard, and Zola after him, is the impression in an “ absolute determinism ” in natural phenomena ; in other words, there is no phenomenon, no happening in nature, which does not have a specify causal agent or complex of causes ( 3 ). An important aspect of this rationale is that science shows us “ the limit of our actual knowledge. ” But such a recognition of what we can and can not know is empowering : “ as skill humbles our pride, it strengthens our exponent ” ( 22 ). A passage from Zola neatly sums up this part of his argument, whereby he situates literature within the general context of scientific advance :
the experimental fresh is a consequence of the scientific development of the hundred ; it continues and completes physiology, which itself leans for accompaniment on chemistry and medicate ; it substitutes for the analyze of the abstract and the metaphysical world the survey of the natural man, governed by physical or chemical laws, and modified by the influences of his surroundings ; it is in one discussion the literature of our scientific long time, as the classical and romantic literature corresponded to a scholastic and theological senesce. ( 23 )
What does all of this average in practice for the naturalistic novel ? To begin with, Zola ’ sulfur position represents an extreme point reaction against Romanticism and all forms of mysticism and supernaturalism. Zola sees his own literary era as placing an overdo vehemence on class and as “ rotten with lyricism ” ( 48 ). He insists that the subject matter of the experimental novelist is rooted in actuality, in observation of homo beings and their passions ; he conducts a “ substantial experiment ” by altering the conditions and circumstances of the characters he creates, positing certain causes of their actions ( 10–11 ). Such an position is directly opposed to attitudes such as vitalism, which “ consider biography as a cryptic and supernatural agent, which acts randomly, free from all determinism ” ( 15 ). Anticipating Freud, Zola extends the principle of determinism from its application throughout natural phenomena to encompass human behavior. He extends the principle to literature, to the novel, which is a “ general inquiry on nature and on man ” ( 38 ), saying that “ there is an absolute determinism for all homo phenomena ” ( 18 ). Zola sees this determinism, then, as both external and internal, as governing the external world and the psychology of man ( 17 ). Novelists should, he urges, “ operate on on the characters, the passions, on the human and social data, in the lapp way that the chemist and the physicist operate on inanimate beings, and as the physiologist operates on populate beings. Determinism dominates everything. ” As such, “ strictly complex number novels ” should be replaced by “ novels of observation and experiment ” ( 18 ) .
If determinism dominates in both worlds, in nature and in the mind of homo, the experimental novel must consider man in both social and psychological aspects. He suggests that “ heredity has a bang-up influence in the intellectual and passionate manifestations of man. ” Considerable importance must besides be attached to the “ surroundings ” ( 19 ). Hence, while he acknowledges that the novelist should continue the physiologist ’ sulfur study of the “ thoughts and passions, ” he reminds us that these are not produced in a void : “ Man is not alone ; he lives in society, in a social condition ; and consequently, for us novelists, this social condition endlessly modifies the phenomenon. indeed our great study is precisely there, in the reciprocal cross consequence of society on the individual and the individual on club ” ( 20 ). Zola sees the experimental novel as freeing this literary music genre from “ the standard atmosphere of lies and errors in which it is plunged ” ( 42 ). The follow is possibly Zola ’ s most comprehensive definition of the course of study of the experimental novel :
this is what constitutes the experimental novel : to possess a cognition of the mechanism of the phenomenon built-in in homo, to show the machinery of his intellectual and sensational manifestations, under the influences of heredity and environment, such as physiology shall give them to us, and then last to exhibit man living in social conditions produced by himself, which he modifies casual, and in the heart of which he himself experiences a continual transformation. ( 21 )
Hence, Zola views literature as not merely the expression of an author ’ second mentality ; the artist ’ south personality, he says, “ is always submit to the higher law of accuracy and nature. ” In fact, this personality is manifested alone in the dinner dress aspects of the novel preferably than in its truth-value, which is independent of any such immanent basis ( 51 ). Zola explains that in the experimental novel all existing rhetorical elements are still allowed, since they do not impinge at all on the method acting of the fresh ( 48 ) .
The Titans: The Warrior of Words (Emile Zola)The Titans: The Warrior of Words (Emile Zola)One of the most interesting aspects of Zola’s essay is his attempt, notwithstanding his scientism, to redeem the moral function of literature. Zola sees science as progressing toward a state where humanity will be in control of life and able to direct nature. Ultimately, for Zola, this capacity is directed toward a moral purpose: “We shall enter upon a century in which man, grown more powerful, will make use of nature and will utilize its laws to produce upon the earth the greatest possible amount of justice and freedom. There is no nobler, higher, nor grander end” (25). Sadly, the passage of another century has proved Zola’s vision to be inordinately optimistic. His position might well be seen as an attempt to reincarnate the classical idea of the highest good as the end to which all science and art is ultimately directed. He sees this noble dream as directing also the efforts of the experimental novelist who has, fundamentally, the same goal as the scientist: “we also desire to master certain phenomena of an intellectual and personal order, to be able to direct them. We are, in a word, experimental moralists, showing by experiment in what way a passion acts in a certain social condition.” The novelist, as moralist, can help analyze and control the mechanism of the passion, and in this, says Zola, “consists the practical utility and high morality of our naturalistic works” (25). This function of the novel, then, coheres with the paths of science and also is integrated with the efforts of legislators and politicians “toward that great object, the conquest of nature and the increase of man’s power” (31). Zola effectively sees idealistic novels as morally harmful, operating under the pernicious desire to “remain in the unknown, through all sorts of religious and philosophical prejudices, under the astounding pretense that the unknown is nobler and more beautiful than the known” (27). This of course is a full-frontal attack on all forms of One of the most interest aspects of Zola ’ south essay is his attack, notwithstanding his scientism, to redeem the moral function of literature. Zola sees science as progressing toward a state where world will be in control of life sentence and able to steer nature. ultimately, for Zola, this capacity is directed toward a moral aim : “ We shall enter upon a century in which man, grown more brawny, will make consumption of nature and will utilize its laws to produce upon the earth the greatest potential amount of justice and exemption. There is no noble, higher, nor grand goal ” ( 25 ). sadly, the passage of another century has proved Zola ’ s vision to be inordinately optimistic. His position might good be seen as an try to reincarnate the classical mind of the highest good as the end to which all skill and art is ultimately directed. He sees this noble pipe dream as lead besides the efforts of the experimental novelist who has, basically, the same finish as the scientist : “ we besides desire to master certain phenomenon of an cerebral and personal ordering, to be able to direct them. We are, in a word, experimental moralists, showing by experiment in what way a love acts in a certain sociable condition. ” The novelist, as martinet, can help analyze and control the mechanism of the love, and in this, says Zola, “ consists the virtual utility and high gear ethical motive of our naturalistic works ” ( 25 ). This function of the fresh, then, coheres with the paths of science and besides is integrated with the efforts of legislators and politicians “ toward that great object, the conquest of nature and the increase of valet ’ s ability ” ( 31 ). Zola effectively sees exalted novels as morally harmful, operating under the baneful desire to “ remain in the unknown, through all sorts of religious and philosophical prejudices, under the astounding pretension that the unknown is baronial and more beautiful than the known ” ( 27 ). This of naturally is a full-frontal attack on all forms of Romanticism and Symbolism, which Platonically stick out reality into another kingdom beyond that of experience. The up fledge of such writers, insists Zola, “ is followed by a deeper fall into metaphysical chaos ” ( 31 ). It is only the experimental novelists that “ work for the intensity and happiness of man. ” Zola effectively equates the epistemic status of literature with its moral function : “ The merely great and moral works are those of truth ” ( 37 ). The foremost writers in this vein, according to Zola, are Balzac and Stendhal. Balzac, for exercise, shows in his Cousin Bette how an entire class is destroyed under the military action of Hulot ’ s “ amatory temperament ” ( 28–29 ). Answering some common objections, Zola denies that the naturalistic fresh is somehow fatalist on the grounds that the genius of the novelist is required to arrange and rearrange the natural order of phenomenon, in accordance with the hypothesis, concerning homo demeanor, that he is aiming to test ( 11, 29 ). ultimately, Zola concedes that philosophic high-mindedness may ennoble and provide stimulation to the scientific enterprise, but on its own account it can not discover truth ( 47 ). Hence, Zola ’ s hypothesis fits squarely into the tradition of positivism .
Notes
1. Émile Zola, The Experimental Novel and other Essays, trans. Belle M. Sherman ( New York : Haskell House, 1964 ), p. 1. Hereafter foliate citations are given in the text.

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