Date Thesis Awarded
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Modern Languages and Literatures
This project examines French realism during Haussmannization, with a particular focus on Jameson's ideas of Utopia and the Reality Principle. Jameson describes those two ideas in the context of a quasi-Freudian subconscious (The Political Unconscious), which is an appropriate description for Balzac, whom he takes as his prime example. But Zola, whose project was so closely related to Balzac's, is difficult to characterize in the same way. Zola, unlike Balzac, has no narrator; he distances himself from his novel as much as possible; he resists the kind of allegorizing that makes coherent political fantasies possible. The result of these differences is a huge difficulty in identifying Zola's utopia or the source of his reality principle. I argue that this difference between Balzac and Zola is in fact a consequence of the changes in the fabric of the city effected by Baron Haussmann. It is an inescapable though oft overlooked facet of the city that as we modify it, it modifies us, its residents. This has been argued by critics like Lefebvre, Harvey, and even Hegel. External space is not just something we occupy; it is also part of our interaction with the world and as such is part of a dialectical exchange between our environment and our selves. Among the many effects of the Haussmannian city, one of the most important is its role in developing what Michel Foucault calls Disciplinary Power. Prior to Haussmann, power demonstrated itself through physical interactions between authority and groups of citizens; Discipline replaced such relations by breaking collective rage into individual resentment and replacing the body of the king or of his policeman with abstractions and machines. The Second Empire produced such abstractions in abundance and worked to make citizens internalize power relations. This thesis attempts to show how the movement away from the human narrator and his utopia/reality subconscious (Balzac) towards an invisible, abstract narrative voice whose agency has been replaced with a fatalistic and inexorable historical imperative (Zola) demonstrates the internalization of Disciplinary Power that had been encoded by Haussmann into the very streets that made up the fabric of Paris.
Smith, Michael, "Le Déracinement de l'Utopie: Haussmannization and the Disciplining of the Revolutionary Imagination" (2011). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 872.
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