Madame Gervaisais, roman hystérique ou mystique?

This article examines the interpretation of the Goncourt narrative Madame Gervaisais (1869): in the eyes of Zola, this "mystical novel" – to use Edmond's terms – is a work on hysteria. However, the "mysticism" of Madame Gervaisais, complacently evoked in the fiction as a sexual awakening favored by the Roman climate, is present, if we are to believe what Edmond's Journal says about it, in the writing process itself. Indeed, Edmond evokes Jules, relentlessly elaborating the "style artiste" of the novel to the point of experiencing it as if it were religious ecstasy. Hence my hypothesis: Madame Gervaisais's mysticism, which the authors suggest is an unhappy consequence of this woman's sexual repression, functions as a metaphor for the stylistic activity of the artist author that Jules embodies. Madame Gervaisais inscribes itself, then, in a tension between scientific aspiration (and inspiration) on the one hand, and its autobiographical aspect, on the other, from whence results the ambivalence of this novel: simultaneously diagnosis (of the mystical madness of a woman) and symptom (of the artistic madness of a writer). (In French) (MHW)
Watroba, Maria
Volume 1996-1997 Fall-Winter; 25(1-2): 154-66.