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Animality in the Works of Émile Zola

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posted on 14.11.2011, 15:06 authored by C.G. Woollen
This thesis is an attempt to define Zola's concept of animality and the way it is elaborated in his written works. Zola's animal metaphors are more concerned to convey a meaning than a visual impression, thereby disconcerting those who expect a more colourful and anecdotal treatment of animal imagery. Didactic may mean drab, but we must take the author's general animal comparisons very seriously in the light of his life-long intention to relate man, Metonymically, to all other material phenomena of the cosmos. The main animality idea that permeates Zola's literary endeavour is that the relationship between man and other animals is fundamentally wrong and in urgent need of improvement. Sections on anthropamorphism and animalization pinpoint the various problems, and suggest tentative solutions. It is only by the adoption of a new, biological morality, however, than man, nature's deviant species, can attain greater harmony and self-knowledge. Individualism must be sacrificed to the survival prospects of the collectivity, viewed over the long term. Man's social state and natural state will then reflect one another in the true Darwinian sense, and no longer encourage grisly parodies of the "struggle for life" ethic.



Hemmings, F.W.J.

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University of Leicester

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