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Symphonic Shopping: From Masculine Visuality to Feminine Aurality in Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hannah Scott


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At first sight, Au Bonheur des Dames is a dream world which privileges the eye over all the other senses. It seems to visually intoxicate its female clientele, objectifying and seducing them. Mouret's grandiose visual merchandizing seems to present the ladies with a scopic overload so strong that they flood, purses open, to be ravished (metaphorically) at the till. Yet focusing on the scopic alone - both intradiegetically and diegetically - overlooks the novel's powerful underlying soundtrack. This article explores the interplay between the visual and the aural - and it is precisely in that shift towards a world of sound that we find the ladies' delights. From within the masculine visual universe a soundscape emerges, which uses noise to colonize an exclusively feminine space. Further, this article examines the diegetic re-creation of this aurality within Zola's ostensibly masculine, Naturalist rhetoric. It considers how, with a complex network of themes and variations, drones, repetitions, and refrains, the reader, too, may gain an oblique sound bite of this extra-symbolic realm of aural bonheur.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott HL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Dix-Neuf

Year: 2014

Volume: 18

Issue: 3

Pages: 259-271

Print publication date: 03/11/2014

Online publication date: 21/10/2014

Acceptance date: 10/04/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1478-7318

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1179/1478731814Z.00000000058


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