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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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Primary Works

Balzac, Honoré de, Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, in La Comédie humaine, Études de moeurs, Scènes de la vie parisienne, 12 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 2001), VI.

Barbey D’Aurevilly, Jules-Amédée, Une vieille maîtresse, in Oeuvres romanesques complètes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1964–6), I.

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