Coal Politics: Receiving Émile Zola’s Germinal

Arthur Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article considers how we might receive Émile Zola’s Germinal (1885) in the Anthropocene. Recent Anthropocene literary criticism has frequently turned to various forms of reception when presenting new accounts of texts written prior to general public knowledge of anthropogenic climate change, but it seldom considers how this reception might be enriched by debates in Philosophy of History. Zola himself anticipates how Anthropocene Reading might be paired with Philosophy of History in a review essay that is known today as ‘La géologie et l’histoire’ (1865), where the catastrophism of geological time is granted an elevated agency. In Germinal, the text’s catastrophism is used to reveal Zola’s account of mining life and concomitant chronic illnesses. Nevertheless, it is perhaps in the account of populism that the novel proves most prescient of the uptake of coal politics in the present. My article will consider how Germinal anticipates these problems in its historiosophy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Early online date16 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2020


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