Maternal Space and (Re)production in Les Rougon-Macquart, by Emile Zola

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Abstract

The mythological aspects of Zola's work have been described as the very foundation of his novels by such eminent critics as David Baguley, Jean Borie and Naomi Schor. Yet the differences between human mothers and maternal spaces in the mythic context remain to be examined. Baguley points out that the earth in La Terre is the central character, la Terre-Màre, that the mythic perspective surpasses the human dramas, comprising the essence of the novel. The centrality of the earth in a novel about fertility and production naturally leads to questions about this displacement of human drama by the mythic and its effects on Zola's mother characters. This paper undertakes the analysis of maternal spaces of Les Rougon-Macquart in regard to the themes of generativity and the obstetrics that structure them, exploring themes of creation, regeneration and reproduction as production-related activities, with emphasis on male participation and male usurpation of female functions.

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