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Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction [#639]
Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction [#639]
  • Examines Émile Zola's distinctive place in the history of the European novel
  • Explores how Zola opened the novel up to a new realm of subjects and how his work embodies a new freedom of expression in their depiction
  • Situates Zola's work in its social and political contexts
  • Considers Zola's art criticism, and his role in the Dreyfus Affair, as well as his fiction

Émile Zola was the leader of the literary movement known as 'naturalism' and is one of the great figures of the novel. In his monumental Les Rougon-Macquart (1871-93), he explored the social and cultural landscape of the late nineteenth century in ways that scandalized bourgeois society. Zola opened the novel up to a new realm of subjects, including the realities of working-class life, class relations, and questions of gender and sexuality, and his writing embodied a new freedom of expression, with his bold, outspoken voice often inviting controversy.
In this Very Short Introduction, Brian Nelson examines Zola's major themes and narrative art. He illuminates the social and political contexts of Zola's work, and provides readings of five individual novels (The Belly of Paris, L'Assommoir, The Ladies' Paradise, Germinal, and Earth). Zola's naturalist theories, which attempted to align literature with science, helped to generate the stereotypical notion that his fiction was somehow nonfictional. Nelson, however, reveals how the most distinctive elements of Zola's writing go far beyond his theoretical naturalism, giving his novels their unique force. Throughout, he sets Zola's work in context, considering his relations with contemporary painters, his role in the Dreyfus Affair, and his eventual murder.


List of illustrations

1 Zola and the art of fiction
2 Before the Rougon-Macquart
3 The fat and the thin: The Belly of Paris
4 'A work of truth': L'Assommoir
5 The man-eater: Nana
6 The dream machine: The Ladies' Paradise
7 Down the mine: Germinal
8 The Great Mother: Earth
9 After the Rougon-Macquart
A chronology of Zola's life and works
Further reading

About the author: 

Brian Nelson, Monash University
Brian Nelson is Emeritus Professor of French and Translation Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. His publications include The Cambridge Introduction to French Literature, The Cambridge Companion to Zola, Zola and the Bourgeoisie, and translations, for Oxford World's Classics, of Zola's His Excellency Eugène Rougon, Earth (with Julie Rose), The Fortune of the Rougons, The Belly of Paris, The Kill, Pot Luck and The Ladies' Paradise. He has also translated Swann in Love by Marcel Proust.

"Its highlights are the short yet lucid English translations from Zola's French and vivid plot summaries." - Sucheta Kapoor, Techno India University, West Bengal , Nineteenth-Century French Studies

"As an introduction to Zola's life and work, Nelson's little book cannot be faulted: it is grounded in a specialist's mastery of the field; it is completed by a reliable chronology; and its invitation to read further is supported by a bibliography listing major editions in French as well as critical studies in English which range from the accessible to the scholarly." - Robert Lethbridge, Journal of European Studies

Product details

ISBN : 9780198837565

Brian Nelson
160 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jul 2020
Very Short Introductions
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Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction [#639]

Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction [#639]

Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction [#639]