The Season of the Soul in J.-K. Huysmans's La Cathédrale


Through an examination of the use of plant imagery, this essay argues that, of all of Huysmans's novels, La Cathédrale is the most concerned with processes of artistic rarefaction, converting things into symbols, and stone into air. In La Cathédrale, the virignal lily assumes as important a position as the ridiculous pumpkin, the fruit of human vice combining the baseness of carnality with the lofty immodesty of self-satisfaction. Huysmans fixes the axis of his book on the issue of positional inverstion, making high what is low, orienting his text up, like a vine climbing the supportive scaffolding of Catholic teaching. From the wallowing horizontality of lust, pride rises until grace purifies it and carries it to the level of the angels. (RZ) 

Ziegler, Robert.
Release Year:
Project MUSE: 
2001-2002 Fall-Winter; 30(1-2): 148-60.