Se paysanner: Perilous Non-Contemporaneity in Joris-Karl Huysmans’s En rade

This article studies the temporal dynamics that underpin the representation of rural life and the peasantry in Joris-Karl Huysmans’s 1887 novel En rade. In particular, I analyze the depiction of peasant characters as “non-contemporaneous” social elements, in Ernst Bloch’s terms, who have been formed in a pre-capitalist past, but who are nonetheless integrated in the modern market economy. In so doing, I assess the socioeconomic and cultural position that the peasantry occupies in the nascent French Third Republic, specifically against the backdrop of its modernizing agenda. The article argues that with the coinage of the term se paysanner, Huysmans aptly captures the atmosphere of repugnance, threat, and terror linked to peasants’ perceived incongruity with the advancements of the modern age and evinced in the encounter between En rade’s bourgeois protagonist Jacques Marles and his rural relatives as disparate contemporaries of each other. 

Erag Ramizi
New York University and Baruch College (CUNY)
Volume 49.1–2