Double Entendre: The Aural Poetics of La Curée

Zola’s La Curée is a novel famously dominated by visual themes (fashion, architecture, ostentation, myopia). This study turns La Curée on its ear and interrogates what has heretofore received little critical notice—the novel’s aural poetics. In his portrayal of Renée Saccard as a failed listener, Zola engages nineteenth-century theories of the neurogenic origin of language and anticipates later insights about the socially conditioned nature of aural interpretation. Renée’s failure as an interpreter of verbal cues problematizes the notion of auditory transparency and suggests that the visual construct of the écran réaliste in Zola’s aesthetics can be reimagined as another membrane through which language is mediated—the eardrum.