Recycling excrement in Flaubert and Zola

Mathias, M. (2018) Recycling excrement in Flaubert and Zola. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 54(2), pp. 224-243. (doi: 10.1093/fmls/cqx040)

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Abstract

This article offers the first reading of human excrement in agricultural novels by Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola. Drawing on insights from ecocriticism and psychoanalysis, and focusing on the ‘dirty nature’ so rarely considered in green studies, I show that these writers challenge the boundary between humans and the rest of the natural world. Whereas urban sanitation, pollution and public health are well studied in nineteenth-century France, less interest has been shown in the agronomic debates in the 1840s–60s regarding the role of our own excrement in the ecological system. Socialist philosopher Pierre Leroux drew on these debates to develop an agricultural model called the ‘circulus’ reusing human faeces as fertilizer, and Flaubert and Zola explore the possibilities of this system in Bouvard et Pécuchet (1880) and La Terre (1887). Ultimately, however, excrement is exposed in their work as a form of truth about our bodies and our place within the ecosystem.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The support of the Carnegie Trust in preparing this article is gratefully acknowledged.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mathias, Dr Manon
Authors: Mathias, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Journal Name:Forum for Modern Language Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0015-8518
ISSN (Online):1471-6860
Published Online:06 October 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Author
First Published:First published in Forum for Modern Language Studies 54(2):224-243
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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