The Needle and the Pen: Etching and the Goncourt Brothers’ Novels

This article examines Jules and Edmond de Goncourt’s novels in the context of the nineteenth-century etching revival and the brothers’ personal experience as aquafortistes, proposing that their engagement with etching influenced their novels in three ways. First, it suggests that the fragmented narrative, structure, and style of the Goncourts’ novels draw on the same principles as nineteenth-century print albums, which similarly emphasized discontinuity and juxtaposition. Secondly, an investigation of the brothers’ use of Charles Méryon’s etchings in their novel Manette Salomon reveals their interest in both textual transpositions of Méryon’s style and the literary topos associated with his work. Finally, the article concludes by exploring how the Goncourt brothers incorporated vocabulary and techniques from etching into their écriture artiste, moving beyond prior readings of their novels in relation to painting and demonstrating the diversity of artistic inspiration for their writing.

Rachel Skokowski
University of Oxford
Volume 48.3–4