Nana, Prostitution and the Textual Foundations of Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames

This article considers the textual forces operating in Au Bonheur des Dames, Zola's 1883 novel on modern commerce. It proposes that, with its echoes of the disorderly impulses that governed the infamous prostitute Nana earlier in the Rougon-Macquart cycle, coupled with its appreciation of the benefits of regulation, the dynamics of controlled and contained prostitution constitute the energy which fuels an efficient and successful business model in Au Bonheur des Dames. By closely analyzing both texts as well as Zola's preparatory documents, and borrowing from Genette's theories of intertextuality, this study reads Nana as a pre-historic hypotext, buried in the textual chantier from which the structure of Au Bonheur des Dames emerges.

Steven Wilson
Volume 2012 (41.1-2)