Blanc SHS 3 - Blanc - SHS 3 - Cultures, arts, civilisations

From Manuscript to Image : Towards a Cultural Genetics ». – ARCHIZ

Putting the Zola archives online

The ARCHIZ project seeks to provide a synthetic vision of the scientific archives on Émile Zola's work (texts, images, manuscripts…). Its practical objective is to create a web site which, in one single location, provides all these archives and makes them accessible for the general public, teachers and professors, as well as the research community. It aims to create both a tool of documentation and a reference site for research.

For cultural and literary genetics

1) The theoretical research we engage in takes place within the framework of the genetics of the texts and manuscripts. From a methodological standpoint we defend the hypothesis that cultural genetics is capable of integrating historical and sociological dimensions into the analysis of textual processes.<br />2) The web site we are creating combines three major sorts of documentary resources linked to Zola's work: texts, images, and manuscripts. Its objective is to sort them coherently in order to provide a current state of knowledge that is as comprehensive as possible, and thus to offer users a genuine research tool.<br />3) Our partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library) is essential for developing our project. Thanks to this collaboration we are able not only to provide access to the author's manuscripts (the preparatory notes of the Rougon-Macquart) via our web site, but also to obtain additional material for the image library we are building.<br />

1) Critical approach. We have chosen the approach of critical genetics practiced in a broadened perspective in order to take into account historical and cultural elements.
2) Creation of a web site. Our difficulties are linked to the complex problems caused by setting up structured databases. Our web site is built in PHP language. For content management we first considered a Joomla environment, but we eventually opted for a Drupal environment.
3) Educational aspects. We have chosen a «research action« method, consisting of experiments involving potential users (secondary-school teachers) to validate our hypotheses.

During the four years of our research program, several scientific events have taken or will take place that will allow us to present our work and to discuss its progress.
1) In March 2013, we presented an initial assessment of our work during the day of study «From manuscripts to digital archives: publishing Émile Zola's work«.
2) In October 2013, a second day of study, «Zola – Tolstoy«, will allow us to broaden our vision of the Zola archives thanks to a comparative analysis involving a corpus from another country.
3) In September 2014, the «Correspondence and personal diaries« conference co-organized with the Centre de correspondences (Center of Correspondence) of the University of Brest, will be an opportunity to reflect upon the place and the role of written correspondence in the Zola archives.
4) Last but not least, the closing conference of our program is scheduled for June 2015. We have chosen «Naturalist models: writings and geneses« as a title. Starting out from the model that Zola's work offers, this conference will explore the notions of «series« and «cycle« to examine their respective genetic roles in understanding the mechanisms of novel writing.
5) In parallel to these various events, an annual seminar will be an occasion for researchers to meet and exchange ideas.

Our project is original in that we give a high importance to the educational dimension. Via our web site, our aim is to provide a broad access to the resources we are gathering. We particularly target secondary-school teachers. Our goal is to promote the knowledge about Zola's work and to provide various elements of analysis on a range of questions as broad as possible, from the historical knowledge about the work and its context, to the study of the mechanisms of writing, to the use of the preparatory notes of the Rougon-Macquart as a research tool.

1) A publication will be released following the days of study and the conferences. We are planning to gather the proceedings of the «Zola – Tolstoy« day in book that we will submit to the Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle. Part of the speeches at our closing conference will published in issue 42 of Genesis, due to be released early 2016; the other contributions will be included in the Cahiers naturalistes in September 2016.
2) Our program is linked to a publishing project: annotating Zola's unpublished letters to his wife, Alexandrine. This task will result in a book of about 1000 pages, published by Gallimard. Thanks to the publication of this last major unpublished part of Émile Zola's work, we will be able to contribute to renewing substantially the knowledge we have of Zola: the book will release precious information on the Dreyfus Affair and, more precisely, on the genesis of «J'accuse«; at the same time readers will discover un unusual portrait of Zola as a person, in the setting of his personal life. Simultaneously to the release of the book (1st half of 2014) there will be an exhibit, co-organized with the Musée des lettres et des manuscrits (Museum of Letters and Manuscripts).

This project is built upon the association of three member institutions: the Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle-Paris 3, the Institut des Textes et Manuscrits modernes (CNRS), and the Département des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale de France. Its primary objective is to present and to reinterpret the archival material relating to the works of Emile Zola that are available at the present time. This will involve undertaking a genetic reading of these archives, which will provide answers to the essential problems raised by their classification and new perspectives on the author of the Rougon-Macquart series and of “J’accuse”. Three categories of archives will be subjected to scrutiny: a printed archive (the writer’s works and critical commentaries on them); a manuscript archive (the manuscripts and preparatory dossiers of the novels, from the BnF collections); and an iconographic archive (the iconography relating to the novels and to the Dreyfus Affair).
This collective research programme, conducted in collaboration with the BnF, will bring together researchers of the “équipe Zola” working at the ITEM and at the Université de Paris 3. During the course of the four years in question, the evolving research activities will be supported by the organisation of a seminar and of three study days. At the end of the process, there will be a colloquium, which will make it possible to take stock of the achievements made. All of these activities will result in publications.
From an academic perspective, this project seeks to apply the theories and methods of genetic criticism to the full range of the Zola archives: on the basis of the manuscript archive, it will aim to elaborate a “genetics of the series”, capable of analysing the internal dynamics of the preparatory dossiers of the Rougon-Macquart; furthermore, in a parallel procedure, by means of a thorough analysis of the printed and iconographic archives in all their diversity, it will seek to arrive at a “genetics of reception”, whose aim will be to link up the problematics of both genetic and reception studies.
There will be particular emphasis on an approach to Zola’s works which would not be purely philological, but which would open up a “cultural genetics”, exploring, within the content of the preparatory dossiers, the traces of the presuppositions of a collective discourse, the associative and derivative links between this discourse and the initial soliloquy of the writer. Similarly, in the area of reception, the research will involve bringing to the fore, within its historical evolution, the full range and diversity of the relevant literary criticism to reveal how this criticism had an impact on Zola’s writing practices, thereby leading the novelist to rethink the bases of his aesthetic.
These scientific hypotheses will be validated in three ways : by developing and ordering the various relevant corpuses of archives; by producing critical editions which will favour a better appreciation and understanding of the texts subjected to theoretical scrutiny; and , lastly, in the final stage of the project, by the construction of an internet site which will bring together in electronic form the full range of the archives that will have been classified and the editions that will have been produced. A pedagogical feature will complete the undertaking in order to open up this wealth of scientific data to the broadest possible audience.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 220,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: July 2011 - 48 Months

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