Sins of the Flesh: Zola, Naturalism and the Madeleine Redemption Narrative in Nineteenth-Century France

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Abstract

Mary Magdalene has endured over the centuries as a powerful icon for the redemption of the so-called sins of the flesh. In arguing that her appeal to writers was experienced no more keenly than in nineteenth-century France, this article reflects on the political, ideological and gender assumptions that are woven into the Madeleine narrative of redemption. It goes on to propose that, with the rise of the naturalist novel, relying on pseudo-scientific theories of pre-determination, the Madeleine myth is radically rewritten in Zola’s Madeleine Férat, an often neglected novel in which the Calvinist doctrine of original sin and predestination not only challenges the very notion of redemption from sexual waywardness, but inflects some of the defining principles of naturalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-44
Number of pages18
JournalEssays in French Literature and Culture
Volume52
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

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