Everybody thinks they know the classics and Zola, to say the least, no exception to the rule. What schoolboy has not on the benches of the primary school, then at college and high school read At the Happiness of Ladies, Germinal, L’assommoir, Nana …?
Zola we know (believe to know) its naturalism. A continuation and further development of realism, naturalism is in Zola’s willingness to experiment with the social in the novel, dissect the human reality in its lowest aspects, give to see the people within the confines of a theory of heredity, and beliefs about the experimental sciences (drawn in large part from Claude Bernard that Zola copy a large part in his Novel Experimental. It was at least a dream of knowledge, guided by a faith in science prevalent at the end of the Nineteenth century, and a great ambition. Zola wants to compete in The Human Comedy of his master Balzac. Both investment strategy in the literary space (to develop the rhetoric of the naturalist allows Zola to take a position within the game literary in the face of the realists, symbolists…1, but also to defend a self-image2.
Strong feature of this presentation of the self, naturalism zolien is guided by an ambition documentary. It is popularized in the Records of preparatory Rougon-Macquart, and expertly setting the scene in the last novel of the series, Doctor Pascal. It’s a safe bet (that is what we intend to show in our thesis work) that Zola sees, among other things, an instrument of credibility in the game of literature.3
The publication by Plon of book investigation of Zola, edited by Henri Mitterand, responded to the concern to enhance the engineering zolien, apprentice sociologist. The thickness of the Books of inquiry, the volume of the folio written in the upstream of the writing of the novels of the cycle amaze the fellow players. But the reputation of a Zola investigator, apprentice anthropologist, going out into the field, is it not overrated ? Despite his profession of faith, a scientist, his desire to make of the novel a human science, Zola exceeds the stage of the rating of a few small facts true ? If since the Nineteenth century, it made fun of the claims zoliennes (in particular his trip to the locomotive for The Human animal), the great names of the literary critics and connoisseurs of Zola have also noted the part of the myth in the naturalism zolien. The field notes are directed and guided by the prénotions zoliennes, by the will already be designed to give such or such a sense in his novel…, I am looking today to find the concern documentary Zola had its source in his writings (articles, correspondence, etc.). Gold in its Correspondence, this concern is not exhibited, apart from the requests for information and documents to Henry Céard. There is no great professions of faith lyric in order to document the true, the taste of the survey, as many elements that we hope at first to find, given the reputation zolienne. The passion documentary of Zola, is it not (also/first ?) the result of the work of literary critics, literary scholars, who by their research interests have produced a vision (distorted ?) of Zola. To be continued…