The Realist Imperative: Narrative Imagination and Zola’s Postmodern Ethics

Dr Michael Lastinger
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This paper examines essential concepts of Emile Zola’s positivist formulations of late nineteenth-century Naturalism in the light of current approaches to postmodern multiculturalism, particularly those outlined in Mohanty’s Literary Theory and the Claims of History: Postmodernism, Objectivity, Multicultural Politics. Mohanty’s gesture toward a broader “democratic project . . . based on a realist moral epistemology and a naturalistic view of cultural practice as experimentation and inquiry" (248) provides a useful means of reviewing Zola’s own engagement with the democratic project and his early contributions to the expansion of human understanding of the ethical dilemmas of human sociability and historicality.

Keywords: Zola, Mohanty, Postmodernism, Ethics
Stream: Cultural Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Realist Imperative, The

Dr Michael Lastinger

Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages, West Virginia University

I pursued my doctoral studies at the University of Georgia, USA, obtaining my Ph.D. in Romance Languages in 1987. My dissertation, "The Fate of Freedom: The Will in Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart," examined the antimonies of destiny, biological and geographical in the work of Emile Zola. My continued research and teaching have explored various aspects of French civilization and world culture with focus on the European 19th-Century: Balzac, Sand, Rimbaud, Zola, etc. I have served the profession through the creation of web sites devoted to Zola, and through work as an officer in the American Association of Teachers of French, as Chair of my university's Faculty Senate, and a number of similar positions.

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