Zola, The Body Modern
Pressures and Prospects of Representation

Susan Harrow

Legenda (General Series)


11 February 2010  •  240pp

ISBN: 978-1-906540-76-0 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95


Emile Zola's reputation as a landmark European novelist is undisputed. His monumental achievement, the novel cycle Les Rougon-Macquart: Histoire naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le Second Empire (1871–1893), fixed his status as a major writer in the naturalist tradition. Is there any more to be said? Susan Harrow answers boldly in the affirmative, challenging the commonplace view that Zola's writing is predictable, prolix and transparent (what Barthes called ‘readerly’, for which read ‘tedious’). Harrow exposes the modernist and postmodernist strategies which surface in the Rougon-Macquart novels, and reveals Zola's innovatory representation of the body captured here at work, at war, at play, at rest, and in arresting abstraction. Informed by critical thought from Barthes and Deleuze to Michel de Certeau and Anthony Giddens, Zola, the Body Modern offers a model for how we can revitalize our understanding of the canonical nineteenth-century European novel, and learn to travel more flexibly between parameters of century, style and aesthetics.

Susan Harrow is Professor of French at the University of Bristol.


  • ‘Susan Harrow’s elegant and erudite study represents a daring departure from traditional readings of Zola’s work... a genuinely ground-breaking study that promises to trigger a seismic shift in the way Zola is read.’ — Hannah Thompson, French Studies 65.4, 2011, 541-42
  • ‘Makes a strong and very welcome plea for close readings of Zola’s novels, focusing, in the words of Mallarmé, an attentive reader and admirer of the novelist, on the ‘folds and fractures’ of the text... Deserves to be widely read for the perceptive and innovative readings that it contains.’ — David Baguley, Modern Language Review 107.2, April 2012, 626-27 (full text online)
  • ‘Overall, this is a brilliant and path-breaking work, one that largely succeeds in remediating the oversights of much previous criticism and in demonstrating how (and why) to read Zola today... An important and stimulating book that should be compulsory reading not only for Zola specialists, but indeed for anyone interested in nineteenth-century France and the writing of modernity.’ — Jessica Tanner, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 43.1-2, 2014

Bibliography entry:

Harrow, Susan, Zola, The Body Modern: Pressures and Prospects of Representation (Legenda, 2010)

First footnote reference: 35 Susan Harrow, Zola, The Body Modern: Pressures and Prospects of Representation (Legenda, 2010), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Harrow, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Harrow, Susan. 2010. Zola, The Body Modern: Pressures and Prospects of Representation (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Harrow 2010: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Harrow 2010: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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