The Me?dan matrix Huysmans and Maupassant following Zola's model of naturalism /
Comparable to a matrix, the Médan group incarnates a system for the
production of naturalist literature with Emile Zola serving as the model for a
select handful of writers. Nourished by the scientific developments of the
nineteenth century, Zola’s theories and successful practice of naturalism drew
Joris-Karl Huysmans and Guy de Maupassant, among others, to the movement.
Yet, they soon diverged from Zola’s model of naturalism, as did Zola himself at
times. The first chapter of this dissertation seeks to reveal the inherent
discrepancies within the theory of naturalism that prevent a true fusion of
science and art in the novel.
Les Soirées de Médan, a collection of stories about the Franco-Prussian
War, united the writers in a show of adherence to the naturalist movement.
While the work garnered the reputation of a manifesto, the stories belie the
deviations from naturalism that were present and growing in Huysmans,
Maupassant, and even Zola. Chapter two approaches the Médan group from its
foundation in support of an aesthetic ideal to the contradictory display of
naturalist and non-naturalist features in Les Soirées de Médan.
The untenability of the Médan group is confirmed by the members’
attraction to various literary styles. Chapters three and four examine
Huysmans’s A rebours and Maupassant’s “Le Horla,” hailed as exemplars of
the decadent and fantastic genres. Themes of artifice in A rebours and the
supernatural in “Le Horla” overturn the conventional subject matter of
naturalism. It is a mistake, however, to distance these works entirely from the
naturalist theories that ground them. Even so, both writers choose to depict
some of the most unnatural aspects of human existence.
Overall, the interplay of naturalist and non-naturalist elements in
Huysmans and Maupassant blurs the lines of classification to affirm that the
writers possess unique talents independent of their initial allegiance to Zola’s
campaign of naturalism. Indeed, Zola recognized the individuality of artistic
genius and embraced diversity in the Médan group. The metaphor of the matrix
therefore is not to force each writer into the same mold, but rather to provide a
template for the exploration of humanity in literature.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:maupassant guy de huysmans j k zola emile naturalism in literature
Date of Publication: