Narrative of Feminine Illness in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart

Shoshana-Rose Marzel


Between 1871 and 1893, Émile Zola wrote and published a cycle of twenty vol­umes entitled Les Rougon-Macquart. In this paper we investigate Zola’s fictional accounts of female illnesses in this series. We argue that Zola weaves his narra­tive by skillfully intermingling his medical knowledge (thus complying with Natu­ralism), gendered notions of his time, and literary objectives. We apply feminist narratologist Robyn Warhol’s concept of the “cultural construction of gender” and show how Zola, while deeply immersed in his own time, repro­duces gendered construction of feminine diseases.