Heredity Beyond the Rougon-Macquart: The Case of Travail
Inspired by Fourier, Emile Zola’s Travail (1901) follows the efforts of Luc and Jordan, scientist and philosopher, to build the ideal community. Its innovation, however, lies neither in futuristic technology nor in social reform: Travail reimagines Zolian humanity, proposing a new version of heredity, the core concept of the naturalist’s works, reimagined in abstract terms. To demonstrate this, I turn to Germinal (1885), which serves both as a counterpoint for and source of the utopia depicted in the Evangile. This novel recommends a new version of the proletariat rewritten as individuals who are adaptable and eager to learn, rather than merely able to endure inhuman conditions, as were the miners. To achieve this, Zola reevaluates the foundational structure of workers’ society, the family. The author diminishes the importance of the reproductive couple in favor of a socially-productive pairing of two fathers, Luc and Jordan. They mold the new society in their image, freeing the workers by transmitting their own drive and love for work. This inheritance rends the proletariat a community of devoted learners and researchers, ideally suited for the 20th century.
Oancea, Ana, "Heredity Beyond the Rougon-Macquart: The Case of Travail" (2017). Modern Foreign Languages Faculty Work. 94.
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