The rebuilding of Paris and its reflection in works by Zola, Verne and Hugo

Décombres de l’avenir et projets rudéraux : les métamorphoses de Paris chez Verne, Hugo et Zola

Claudia Bouliane’s recently published MA dissertation is available online as a PDF.

The abstract is as follows :

Between 1853 and 1870, many areas of the French capital are torn down to allow the establishment of new avenues by Baron Haussmann, Paris’ prefect under Napoleon III. These major urban projects have struck the social imaginary and became an object of fascination for literature. This essay is located on the grounds of sociocriticism and seeks to understand how Verne’s, Hugo’s and Zola’s texts interpret the Paris’ new urban conformation. In Paris au XXe siècle (1863) Jules Verne is planning future destructions and, in turn, imagines the strange constructiveness of residual past. Although in exile, Victor Hugo is very aware of urban and social changes under way. In Paris (1867) his writing works to make compatible the ideas of ruin and progress. Émile Zola with Paris (1898) reflects the contradictions accompanying urban change through medical and organic metaphors close to “the decadence’s spirit” that characterizes the end of the century. In accordance with the aims of the sociocriticism’s approach, the research develops itself from an internal reading of works, drawing on the resources of texts’ analysis, poetics and narratology. The essay also mobilizes diverse works on relations between literature and the city, as well as works of synthesis produced in the fields of general history and of urban planning history.

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