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English 125 D Week 2: La Bete Humaine

by: Ali Lafferty

English 125 D Week 2: La Bete Humaine 125D

Marketplace > University of California Berkeley > English > 125D > English 125 D Week 2 La Bete Humaine
Ali Lafferty
GPA 3.924

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About this Document

These notes continue with themes in Emil Zola's La Bete Humaine.
The 20th Century Novel
Professor Donna Jones
Class Notes
Zola, 19th-century, english, Literature, modernism
25 ?




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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Ali Lafferty on Saturday September 10, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to 125D at University of California Berkeley taught by Professor Donna Jones in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 5 views. For similar materials see The 20th Century Novel in English at University of California Berkeley.


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Date Created: 09/10/16
“Today we’re going to talk about trains” –Professor Jones The train sets the milieu (our environment is constantly transitory because the train is a mobile entity), but La Lison the engine is also personified so the train is also a character in some sense (it has a name and gender!) Trains produce instability and social anxiety because people can travel to places that are not theirs, so there’s also a sense of xenophobia arising with the train 19 century French decadence Max Nordau: wrote about 19 century French decadence and opulence to the point of excess, Zola uses this in his writing Grandmorin basically felt he had a right to possess any woman sexually, which is why he abused Severine, so in this novel he’s a model for excess and decadence HOWEVER Grandmorin also perverts the patronage system by raping Severine, so Zola is critical of Grandmorin’s sense of entitlement by having this sense of entitlement lead to Grandmorin’s corruption of his social role (if anyone knew about his rape of Severine and believed it, he would be ruined) Beginnings of psychological novel The book focuses on the interiority of the characters and their motives, but Zola still doesn’t delve deeply into interiors Observation of characters leads to an account of motives: we can assess the “outside” of someone and assess their “symptoms”, meaning we can guess their motives. There’s a focus on methodology here so we can deduce what people want Historical setting of novel 1871: beginning of Paris Comune, meaning the city is a battleground (think Les Mis!) Franco-Prussian War was about to begin, which lends itself to the sense of apocalypse in the last paragraph of the novel The place of the novel is mobility, motion, and the train itself Panoramic vision The train allows people to see panoramically: we can see a wide landscape instead of just the horizon in front of us, and this view constantly changes However we can’t see things like Aunt Phasie’s situation, her slow death at the hands of Misard Phasie can pick out details of trains going by: this new panoramic vision is accessible to those who develop the site to use it, like Phasie does as she sits in her house with nothing else to do “Dispassionate prose style of naturalism” gives us account of panoramic vision through the realism of this same prose style The deal with Aunt Phasie She’s the oldest living member of the Lantier family, so she’s a voice of the old world from a time before modernist technological development Her panoramic vision redefines ideas of being foreign: she is fixed, but what she watches is not What Aunt Phasie observes as she watches the train is MOTION: she cannot see people in their entirety but instead has to make sort of a composite image of all of them, blurring them all together, because the train moves to fast to distinguish between its passengers Aunt Phasie’s world only has provisional stability, and this stability dies with her—Misard slowly poisoning her is an allegory for the slow death of being rooted in an environment Theorization of “uprootedness” Thinking about what uprooted people (from the provinces) bring with them from their own places In France, narratives describe uprootedness as it happens, this was a current problem Categories become abstract as the people within them move: we again redefine being foreign In most novels there’s a mimetic relationship between character, environment, and social cues (the rich gentleman is a rich gentleman because he was born into the proper environment, which grants him the proper social behavior) but Zola detaches these things through a sense of mobility, and in La Bete Humaine he questions abstract performative social roles


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