Flaubert and Zola: Challenges to Verisimilitude

Lawrence R. Schehr

in Subversions of Verisimilitude

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780823231355
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241095 | DOI:
Flaubert and Zola: Challenges to Verisimilitude

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Flaubert chose to have his characters fail, often because of their limitations and ignorance rather than tragic flaws in their personalities. With this, the two interrelated issues are addressed in this chapter, the concept of failure and the concept of misreading. While Flaubert is expressing his own personal pessimism, he is at loggerheads with a realist vision in which, arguably, some characters do succeed, against all odds. The specific example, which might be considered a singular case of failure, is Emma Bovary's singular capacity for misreading. By inventing a scientific approach to his analyses, Zola might seemingly have avoided the same pitfalls as other authors before or since. Yet in a number of striking cases — the symphonie en blanc in Au Bonheur des dames, as well as Le Ventre de Paris and Germinal — the system implodes upon itself.

Keywords: Flaubert; failure; misreading; Emma Bovary; Zola; verisimilitude

Chapter.  31031 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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