Thinking Madame Raquin: Consciousness and Cognition in Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin (1867)

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

Abstract

An immersive reading of the elderly matriarch figure in Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin (1867) demonstrates how representations of old age in nineteenth-century French fiction can benefit from cognitive literary-critical approaches. Putting to work key concepts from this fast-developing field (affordances, propinquity, cognitive adaptability, and embedded thinking) allows us to reveal the complex trajectory of consciousness and the inverse correlation of Madame Raquin’s physical incapacity and her mental and imaginative adaptation. Literary cognitive approaches can thus enable a fuller problematization of Naturalism, whilst Zola’s fiction offers a situational understanding of consciousness in old age that challenges clichés of cognitive rigidity and depreciation.

8500 words
Original languageEnglish
JournalL'Esprit Créateur
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • critical ageing studies
  • literary cognitive studies
  • Emile Zola
  • Thérèse Raquin
  • affordances
  • propinquity
  • discourse
  • agency

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