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Aspects of eros in Emile Zola's Germinal Sandford, Luke Heston


According to classical Greek mythology, Eros was one of the first beings to arise out of Chaos and represented the concepts of harmony and union necessary in creating the world and its creatures. The primary fear that Zola addresses (and exploits) in Germinal is the fear of anarchy and of social chaos. This is accomplished thanks to a relentless textual insistency on eroticism. This emphasis on human sexuality, along with Zola's ground-breaking treatment of the working class, represents the breaking of the two greatest literary taboos in nineteenth century French literature: the vivid depiction of bodily urges and the minute examination of the proletariat. Our thesis is that the revolutionary impact and the incontestable literary longevity of Germinal stem largely from Zola's successful shattering of these timorous traditions--the logical extension of reigning bourgeois morals--via his persistent depictions of the corporeal and the erotic. This essay, therefore, is an attempt to analyze, to describe, and to reconcile the diverse and contradictory elements which comprise the erotic subtext in Zola's most famous novel, that is to provide an erotic reading of Germinal.

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