Censoring/Censuring the Press under the Second Empire: The Goncourts as Journalists and Charles Demailly


This article examines Edmond and Jules de Goncourt’s critique of Napoleon III’s strict control of the press, as expressed through the narrative discourse in Charles Demailly (1860–1868). The novel is informed by the brothers’ brief career as journalists, which they abandoned after being censored. Their text suggests that political censorship under the Second Empire’s authoritarian regime is responsible for contaminating literary criticism with covert political polemics and for turning the non-political petits journaux into trivial scandalmongers that debase the literary field and the public rather than building on the alleged intellectual and artistic gains of the 1830s. The narrator also blames the public for its complicity in the shameless but popular practices of such papers. Yet, through the authors’ experiment with journalism as well their critique of the press in the novel, we can discern an acknowledgement of their dependence on the public and a condescending but genuine desire to influence the public.

Peter Vantine
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