Zola nataliste ou féministe? Pouvoir féminin et sexualités subversives dans Fécondité

Scholars have described the role of women in Zola’s Fécondité (1899) as limited primarily to motherhood, citing Marianne’s twelve births as the maternal model idealized by the novelist. However, the dossiers préparatoires reveal a different story. Zola describes in detail his many female characters whose intimate desires express their quest for sexual liberty and for control over their own bodies. Although some of the most subversive elements were softened as Zola composed his novel, one can still discern them in the final text. Does this self-censorship reflect Zola’s moral judgment of women? Or is it simply a narrative strategy to integrate his scientific theories on population growth? This article’s objective is to study the subtle hints that Zola leaves in the novel and which allow for alternative interpretations of his female characters and their sexuality. I shall argue that these hints demonstrate his tacit approval of such characters and their behaviors. (In French)

Michael Rosenfeld
Vrije Universiteit Brussel