A Madeleine for Dreyfus: Mass Politics and Literary Form in Fin-de-Siècle France

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Samuels, Maurice


The thesis of this dissertation is that the encounter with mass politics of the late nineteenth-century Third French Republic exploded literary form. It looks at literary representations that pertain to the Dreyfus Affair. The approach is historical formalism in the Marxist tradition established by Georg Lukács, supplemented with Fredric Jameson. Along with Lukácsian Realism, the key concept is Antonio Gramsci’s “crisis of hegemony.” The introduction situates concepts of Realism and the crisis of hegemony in relation to the historiographical debate about Dreyfus Affair, showing how the bourgeois subject experienced a new pressure to articulate its relation to the social totality. Chapters look at Zola’s Vérité and his famous article “J’Accuse… !”; Maurice Barrès’s novel Les Déracinés and his short story Le Jardin de Bérénice; and Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu and his novel manuscript Jean Santeuil. The conclusion briefly examines how some of problems of literary Realism are inherited by cinema. The broadest stake of this argument is the role that mass politics played in the emergence of Modernist impulses out of the Realist tradition of the nineteenth century.

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