One of the greatest challenges to Naturalism came from within its own ranks. If Joris-Karl Huysmans was not included among the Realist or Naturalist novelists discussed in the first chapter, it is because his work is so unique as to require separate discussion. Defender of Zola, contributor to Les Soirées de Médan, and writer of four novels that seemed to confirm his place as one of the leading exponents of Naturalism, Huysmans, via what is usually referred to as his ‘decadent’ period, crossed the great divide of late nineteenthcentury French fiction to write his Catholic trilogy En Route, La Cathédrale and L’Oblat. Huysmans’ literary Odyssey was inseparable from his personal conversion to Catholicism, and his novels, especially the later ones, have been primarily regarded as source material for the biographer. It is as novels, as Naturalist and Catholic novels coexisting within the work of a single author, that they are important for this present study. The questions they raise exemplify its central concerns. What did being a Naturalist, in Huysmans’ case, entail? What changes in his writing resulted from - or perhaps resulted in - his conversion to Catholicism? In approaching these questions, the critical themes identified in the previous chapters -the novelist’s notion of totality, his presentation of the material and immaterial planes of reality, the role of concrete objects in this presentation - serve as guiding threads through Huysmans’ tortuous evolution.
- Everyday World
- Christian Belief
- Modern Artist
- Christian Writer
- Monastic Life
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Notes and References
P. Cogny, J.-K. Huysmans à la recherche de l’unité (Nizet, 1953) 240
J. Laver, The First Decadent: being the strange life of J.-K. Huysmans (Faber & Faber, s.d. ) 115, 169; Baldick, Life, 206.
© 1989 Malcolm Scott
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Scott, M. (1989). Huysmans and the Art of Conversion. In: The Struggle for the Soul of the French Novel. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-10846-6_5
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