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Verre versus Vert: Vegetal Violence in Huysmans's En Rade

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hannah Scott


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In Joris-Karl Huysmans's 1887 novel En rade, Jacques Marles and his wife Louise, beset by financial troubles, flee Paris to find safe harbour in a dilapidated rural chateau. At first glance, this country setting seems to display all the stereotypical features of pastoral fantasy; however, Huysmans uses implicit urban rhetoric and imagery to create a wry subversion of the natural idyll. The comforts of nature are denied to the male subject as the countryside is stripped of its promise of escapism. This article examines, firstly, Huysmans's use of signifiers of urban unrest to turn nature's exuberance into a corollary for human, revolutionary violence. Secondly, it focuses specifically on glass and glass-breaking at the hands of an aggressive Mother Nature, evoking memories of urban destruction and Parisian civil strife. The association of nature with violence culminates in the invasion of the chateau and its looking glasses by green, the colour of nature, forcing this distressing natural world between man and his own narcissistic reflection. Huysmans reveals that the natural world is no more an ally than the unruly urban masses, and confronts the reader with the inexorable violence of vegetation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott HL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: French Studies

Year: 2015

Volume: 69

Issue: 3

Pages: 305-317

Print publication date: 01/07/2015

Online publication date: 15/05/2015

Acceptance date: 06/04/2015

ISSN (print): 0016-1128

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2931

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/fs/knv073


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