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«The Return of the Repressed»: Uncovering Family Secrets in Zola’s Fiction

An Interpretation of Selected Novels


Rita Oghia-Codsi

This book analyses one of the many levels of complexity not readily apparent to the reader of Zola’s fiction: the question of the author’s family secrets. The novels addressed here present a variety of sub-textual issues highlighting Zola’s sexual insecurity and anxiety. Their analysis reveals a mystery related to female sexuality that pervades the narratives of Thérèse Raquin and La Fortune des Rougon, and that is silently transmitted in Madeleine Férat, La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret, La Bête humaine, La Curée, Nana, Le Docteur Pascal and Vérité.
The novels are explored from the standpoint of psychoanalytical criticism, a tool particularly appropriate for examining Zola’s language and illuminating the recurrent theme of «the Return of the repressed». Four psychoanalytical theories are adopted: Nicolas Abraham’s and Maria Toroks’ theories of psychic development (presenting the concept of the phantom) and Sigmund Freud’s and Jacques Lacan’s theories of infantile sexuality.
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About the author


RITA OGHIA-CODSI obtained a doctorate in nineteenth-century French studies from Royal Holloway, University of London for a thesis on the return of the female phantom in selected novels from Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. Her main research interests are the relationship between psychoanalysis and literature, feminist literary theory, comparative literature and the history of philosophy. Her recent publications include ‘Exploring the Origins of Creativity in Zola’s La Fortune des Rougon’, for the Bulletin of the Emile Zola Society. She is currently working on Henry James, Octave Mirbeau and Emile Zola.

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