IN SEARCH OF THE CITY: POWER, IDENTITY, AND NARRATIVES OF URBANIZATION FROM STENDHAL TO ZOLA
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This dissertation studies urbanization in nineteenth-century French novels, exploring the ways that this demographic phenomenon structures plot, describes inner transformations, and most importantly becomes a catalyst for confronting and challenging established power structures. Characters who transition from rural to urban states, either geographic and actual, or interior and moral, force confrontations between a whole series of power constructs embodied by the country and city. Their evolution, mapped in conjunction with demographic studies and the writings of urban theorists, allows us to explore questions of authority, reality, language, and gender in nineteenth-century France. An analysis of the concrete urbanization of Julien Sorel in Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir is followed by a study of the abstract urbanization of Emma in Flaubert's Madame Bovary, who refashions her identity and morals in line with urban ideals. Chapter three employs Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames to study the urbanization reshaping the economic power structures of Paris. Chapter four uses Zola's L'Assommoir to question the nineteenth-century idealism behind many urban reforms. Using works by Flaubert, Théophile Gautier, Pierre Loti, George Sand, Claire de Duras, and numerous visual artists, the final chapter explores the relationship between urbanization and Orientalism by transposing the rural-urban binary onto the relationship between Occident and Orient. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that actual rural and urban geographies become cartographies of power wherein the country and city communicate an entire set of forces competing for agency. Each narrative of urbanization exhibits different manifestations of the city and the country and different types of evolution between the two. Yet each narrative reveals a fundamental transformation precipitated by the clashing of rural and urban ideas, powers, and identities. This transformation shapes and defines nineteenth-century France.