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Real Time

Real Time: Accelerating Narrative from Balzac to Zola

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Real Time
    Book Description:

    In Real Time David F. Bell explores the decisive impact the accelerated movement of people and information had on the fictions of four giants of French realism--Balzac, Stendhal, Dumas, and Zola. _x000B__x000B_Nineteenth-century technological advances radically altered the infrastructure of France, changing the ways ordinary citizens--and literary characters--viewed time, space, distance, and speed. The most influential of these advances included the improvement of the stagecoach, the growth of road and canal networks leading to the advent of the railway, and the increasing use of mail, and of the optical telegraph. Citing examples from a wide range of novels and stories, Bell demonstrates the numerous ways in which these trends of acceleration became not just literary devices and themes but also structuring principles of the novels themselves. _x000B__x000B_Beginning with both the provincial and the Parisian communications networks of Balzac, Bell proceeds to discuss the roles of horses and optical telegraphs in Stendhal and the importance of domination of communication channels to the characters of Dumas, whose Count of Monte-Cristo might be seen as the ultimate fictional master of this accelerated culture. Finally, Bell analyzes the cinematic vision created by the arrival of the railroad, as depicted by Zola in La Bete Humaine.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09047-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Like all evolutions in social perception and organization, the restructurings that increased the speed of travel and information exchange in nineteenth-century France were complex. To circumscribe them requires identifying textual sources that give insight into how people adapted their daily practices to incorporate the potential for more rapid movement. The analysis I undertake here is not exhaustive: it does not pretend to cover the entire nineteenth century in a descriptive mode meant to encompass the full gamut of elements associated with questions of speed and communication. Instead I will concentrate on an interval that begins at the end of the...

  5. 1 Webs: Genealogies, Roads, Streets (Balzac)
    (pp. 13-39)

    In Balzac’sUrsule Mirouët,everyone is on the move. In the first scene, themaître de poste(postmaster) in Nemours, Minoret-Levrault, awaits the arrival of a coach carrying his son, Désiré, who is returning home to Nemours from Paris after completing his law studies. Another Minoret, Doctor Minoret, who comes to Nemours to retire after a very long absence from the town and whose return will provoke the struggle for his inheritance that is the main narrative line of the novel, thinks nothing of jumping into a coach and traveling substantial distances to treat sick patients in provincial towns well...

  6. 2 Intersections: Relays, Stagecoaches, Walks (Balzac bis)
    (pp. 40-75)

    So fascinated was Balzac by the question of roads and transportation that within a year after composingUrsule Mirouët,he returned to the subject of road travel inUn Début dans la vie.¹ This short novel opens with an extended sequence set in and around a coach on the road between Paris and L’Isle-Adam in the Oise Valley. IfUrsule Mirouëttells the story of amaître de poste,one of the managers of the new road system that was being put into place and improved at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries,Un Début...

  7. 3 Performances: Horses, Optical Telegraphs (Stendhal)
    (pp. 76-102)

    In the first part of Stendhal’s novelLucien Leuwen,when the principal female character, Mme. de Chasteller, begins to fall in love with the male protagonist, Lucien Leuwen, she tries desperately to understand who he really is and what he might be worth, both from a moral and from a social perspective. One of her greatest fears is expressed in the following manner: “Perhaps he’s simply a cavalry officer, like all the others.”¹ Mme. de Chasteller wants to know whether Lucien is nothing more than a man adept at riding and maneuvering a powerful horse, or whether there is considerably...

  8. 4 Velocities: Precision, Overload (Dumas)
    (pp. 103-130)

    In chapter 85 of Alexandre Dumas’sLe Comte de Monte-Cristo,Monte-Cristo embarks on a stagecoach trip to Normandy, where he has invited Albert de Morcerf to accompany him. His intention is to remove Albert from the increasingly tense situation in Paris that has been created by Monte-Cristo’s plot to exact methodical revenge on Albert’s father, Fernand (now count de Morcerf). Albert’s father was one of the coconspirators who plotted to have Monte-Cristo (when he was still Edmond Dantès) thrown into prison as a Bonaparte sympathizer at the beginning of the story recounted in Dumas’s novel. The passage describing the trip...

  9. Conclusion: Speed Kills (Zola)
    (pp. 131-142)

    While concentrating on the historical period after the Revolution and before 1850, before the extensive development of the railway system in France, I have wanted to demonstrate that an infrastructure for—and an expectation of—speed and precision in communication were steadily created and implemented prior to the sustained expansion of the railroad system. The developing organizations permitting a more efficient movement of people and messages had a very evident impact on a series of novels by Balzac, Stendhal, and Dumas. The novels analyzed in previous chapters reflect technological developments in the domain of communication at the level of their...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 143-150)
    (pp. 151-154)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 155-157)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 158-158)