Narrative of Feminine Illness in Émile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart

Between 1871 and 1893, Émile Zola wrote and published a cycle of twenty volumes entitled Les Rougon-Macquart. In this paper we investigate Zola’s fictional accounts of female illnesses in this series. We argue that Zola weaves his narrative by skillfully intermingling his medical knowledge (thus complying with Naturalism), gendered notions of his time, and literary objectives. We apply feminist narratologist Robyn Warhol’s concept of the “cultural construction of gender” and show how Zola, while deeply immersed in his own time, reproduces gendered construction of feminine diseases.


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