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A wealth of information about the life and works of Emile Zola

Hon Secretary: Chantal S. Morel
35 Mayfield Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1PN
Mobile: 00 44 (0) 787 508 9964

Website:   www.emilezolasocietylondon.org.uk
Email:   chantalsmorel@googlemail.com

Our Programme

Our Quiz

The winner of our prize Quiz for 2020 is announced on our Quiz page. The answers are also provided. Closing date for entries was 2 April 2020.

Forthcoming Events

The Coronavirus crisis has forced us to suspend our programme of events until further notice. When we are able to resume activities members will be notified by e-mail and here on the website.

Saturday 18 April 2020  The ninth of our Annual Saturday Seminars.
Venue: Room G14 at Birkbeck College University of London, Malet Street WC1, 2pm to 6pm.

The theme this year will be 'Women in the Rougon-Macquart', which may be considered from many aspects, for instance:
~ whether Zola's women seem to see the world differently from the way men see it;
~ do Zola’s women fully exist for us as women?
~ or are they irretrievably women as seen /imagined by a man?
~ do women share in the narratorial role?
~ does Zola stress any particular physical features, moral and/or intellectual qualities in his women characters?
~ women in differing social/economic classes – e.g. working class, bourgeoisie, upper class, commercial, peasant;
~ women and the war of the sexes, women as symbols – the angelic, the corrupting, the mother;
~ Zola as misogynist/voyeur/feminist or neutral observer of women.

The main entrance to Birkbeck College is on the part of the building facing away from Malet Street, that is to say on the side where there is an expanse of grass. Nearby Undergrounnd stations : Euston Square, Warren Street, Goodge Street, Russell Square; the College is also near several bus routes, but no routes now run down Gower Street - they use Tottenham Court Road instead.

photo of poster advertising seminar

Thursday 7 May 2020:  Open House at 34 Mayfield Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1PN starting at 18.00.

Friday 19 June 2020:  Making sense of place: a short walk in Paris with Dickens's Uncommercial Traveller. An illustrated talk by John Edmondson.

John Edmondson is an editor, writer, publishing consultant and independent scholar – a truly impressive and diverse portfolio. As an independent scholar in the field of Victorian Studies, John specializes in mid-19th century literature and society in England, the fiction and journalism of Charles Dickens, cross-currents with Second Empire France, and literary explorations of urban space and place. He has written books and journal articles reflecting his interests and given lectures to organizations in the UK and Europe such as the Dickens Fellowship and the Auguste Comte Society. John is also interested in wider issues in higher education, publishing and literature. In 2015 he co-edited Entrepreneurship and Knowledge Exchange. More recently he has co-edited a book entitled Innovation and the Arts: The Value of Humanities Studies for Business, published in February 2020. Having run his own journals publishing business for 25 years, he is now editor of the bimonthly journal Industry and Higher Education.

The venue for this event will be announced in due course.

Thursday 9 July 2020:  Open House at 34 Mayfield Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1PN starting at 18.00.

July 2020:  It is hoped that there will be a visit to Chawton, home of Jane Austen’s brother.

4 October 2020:  Annual visit to Medan.

Thursday 15 October 2020:  Open House at 34 Mayfield Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1PN starting at 18.00.

Thursday 12 November 2020:  Open House at 34 Mayfield Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1PN starting at 18.00.

Friday 27 November 2020:  Annual General Meeting of the Emile Zola Society at the Natioanl Liberal Club, starting at 18.00. This will be followed by a talk.


Past Events: 2020

Friday 7 February 2020:  Annual Dinner which on this occasion was in honour of Professor Valerie Minogue, who recently retired as President of the Emile Zola Society. The event was held at Garfunkel’s Restaurant, South Kensington.

Past Events: 2018-19

Friday 22 November 2019.  The annual general meeting of the Society took place at the National Liberal Club, London. This was followed by a screening of the 1955 film Gervaise.


Sunday 6 October 2019:  Pèlérinage de Médan. The annual visit to Emile Zola’s former home at Médan.
The speakers this year were Jean-François Kahn and Pierre Dufief:
Jean-François Kahn: (pseudonyms Darras, Ferriot, Vallières) French Journalist, created 'L'Evènement du Jeudi' (1984), and 'Marianne' (1997). He is the author of many essays such as 'L'Horreur médiatique'' (2014) and 'Complot contre la Démocratie' (2000).
Pierre Dufief, Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris-Nanterre, specialising in Naturalism among other subjects and an active Member of ITEM (Institut des Textes et Manuscrits Modernes).


Friday 3 May 2019: The Society’s annual dinner ‘Avec Zola à table’ was held at Daquise, 20 Thurloe Street, South Kensington, London SW7 2LT. During the pleasant social occasion the President, Valerie Minogue, announced the joint winners of the quiz set by Sati McKenzie: Luigi Spinetta and Carol Green. They scored 14.5 out of a maximum 16. They will each receive a year’s free membership of the Society. Details of the quiz can be found on the Our Quiz section of the website.


Saturday 13 April 2019: the eighth of our Annual Saturday Seminars,
at Birkbeck College, London.

French Politics in the time of Zola

Valerie MINOGUE (President) : Welcome and Introduction.

Sarah JONES, Zola’s Lourdes (1894) : Faith, Medicine and the Psychsomatic.

David KING, Morny, the Emperor and Zola’s Eugène Rougon.

Alexandra TRANCA, Émile Zola’s Les Mystères de Marseille. Revolution in a Provincial City.

Hannah SCOTT, Songs in the Laundry : the Politics of Music in L’Assommoir.

Friday 15 February 2019: at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2HE. The speaker was Dr Russell Cousins of Birmingham University on the subject of "Listen to Nana: acoustic features of Zola - a literary soundtrack"

Friday 30 November 2018: The AGM of the Emile Zola Society took place at the National Liberal Club - Lawrence Robson Room at 6 pm. It was followed by an illustrated talk on Escoffier by David King, and by a pre-Christmas drink. The Minutes of the AGM can be viewed here,

Sunday 7 October 2018: Pèlérinage de Médan.

Report by Chantal Morel: Another most enjoyable outing to Médan for the 120th Anniversary of ‘J’Accuse…!’ Eight Members of the Emile Zola Society met at Gare Saint Lazare at 11am and caught a train to Villennes for a gourmet lunch at the Plaisirs de France where they caught up with other 16 Zolists including the official Speakers for the day. Cars were available to convey everyone from Villennes to Médan, on time for the opening of the festivities.

Mme Eléonore Reverzy, Lecturer at the University of Paris-Sorbonne Nouvelle, based her allocution on Zola for everyone “Zola pour tous”. Zola wrote for his readers, cared for them so that they all found something appealing in his writing . It is all about seeing, hearing, and feeling, in other words ‘I see therefore I am’. Zola gives his readers the smell, the taste, the warmth of things. Look at yourself, reader, you are his ‘bête humaine’.

The second allocution from Mme Audrey Azoulay, General Director of UNESCO, covering education, sciences and culture, emphasized links between Zola and UNESCO: respect and quest for truth, political engagement, beliefs, convictions that forces one to be involved.

She underlined the fact that children were sensitive and open to the idea of justice and truth.

Referring to Jean Santeuil, she believes, like Proust, that it is necessary to describe the world as it is.

Humanity needs to mobilise, assemble and show a moral solidarity. “UNESCO is the moral and intellectual conscience of Humanity” (Léon Blum)


Wednesday 13th June to Saturday 16th June 2018: International Colloquium:
with the collaboration of the University of Lille (SHS): Landscapes of Industry: Zola and the Social Realities of His Time [Espaces et paysages industriels : Zola et les réalités sociales de son époque] at the University of Lille (SHS).

Discussion continues between sessions

For details of papers from the colloquium please see our Publications page.

Friday 13th April 2018:
Avec Zola à table. The annual dinner of the Society, was held at Richoux, Gloucester Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2EH.

The results of the Quiz set by Dr Sati McKenzie were announced at the dinner.

The winner was Geoff Woollen from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Glasgow University. The runner up was Luigi Spinetta, a dentist from Milan, who has only been reading Zola for two years and loves the books. Our congratulations to both of them.

You can try the Quiz again by going to our new Quiz page which will also give you a link to the answers.

Friday 9th February 2018: More House, 53 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2 EN. A talk by Hélène Sicard-Cowan: Emile Zola's critique of the experimental method in L'Oeuvre and other works. 6-8 pm.

"Zola scholars usually take for granted Zola's claim to apply Claude Bernard's experimental method to his novels in order to help, in his own way, reform the society of his era. Among the few critics who consider Zola's relation to positivist and experimental sciences to be a complex, even vexed one, no one, to the best of my knowledge, has entertained the idea that Zola borrowed such method to pinpoint its ethical and scientific failings. This is precisely what I will argue in my talk".

The talk was followed by a lively discussion.

Claude Lantier, the painter in l'Oeuvre


Past Events: 2017

Friday 1 December 2017: Annual General Meeting, held at More House, 53 Cromwell Road, South Kensington at 6 pm.
The AGM was followed by: Images of Emile Zola. A talk by Keith Howell, illustrated by many examples of how the writer was depicted in drawings, photographs and caricatures, not only in France but also in other European countries and in the United States.

Sunday l October 2017: Pèlérinage de Médan. The annual visit to Emile Zola’s former home at Médan. The programme included lunch at the restaurant L’île de France, 705 avenue Foch, followed by a visit to the house. The Société des Amis d’Emile Zola kindly provided a bus to Médan.

Friday 23 June 2017: There was a showing of La Bête Humaine, the Jean Renoir film based on the novel by Emile Zola.

Friday 21 April 2017: The Annual Dinner of the Society was held at Richoux, Gloucester Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2 EH. The dinner was well-attended and the guests were welcomed by the President, Valerie Minogue. During the evening, the results of Dr Sati McKenzie’s quiz were announced.

There was a lot of interest in the quiz and two all-correct entries were received – from Ian Birchall and Geoff Woollen. Ian Birchall was selected as winner by random draw at the Society’s annual dinner on Friday 21st April 2017.

Mention should also be made of the nearly correct entries (16 of 17 correct) received from Annie Lynn and Jane Davison. Well done and commiserations.

You can try the Quiz again by going to our new Quiz page which will also give you a link to the answers.


Saturday 25 March 2017: the seventh of our Annual Saturday Seminars,
Senate House, University of London.

Costume and Character

Danielle Bishop: ​'The interplay of fabric and disguise in Au Bonheur des dames (The Ladies’ Paradise)'
This paper considered how, principally through the use of fabric, the art of disguise permeates the novel. Through the smoke and mirrors of costume, status can be elevated, identity modified, structure improved and desirability enhanced, but disguise has limitations, disastrous to those who do not recognise them. Central to the novel is Octave Mouret who practises the most astute disguise of all in his emporium, a 'material  playground',  showering ‘bonheur’ upon every lady, but in reality designed only to part her from her last sou.

Jennifer Yee: ‘Costume and Presence, Costume and Absence: Some Elusive Characters in Flaubert and Zola’
Costume famously informs us about character in Balzac’s metonymical description of Mme Vauquer’s petticoat in Le Père Goriot, but Flaubert and Zola sometimes use elements of costume for the opposite effect. In key examples from Flaubert’s Éducation sentimentale and Zola’s Son Excellence Eugène Rougon costume is instead used metonymically to emphasize absence and undermine attempts at grasping a character.

Aileen Ribeiro: ‘Fashion, Art and Zola’
Some aspects of fashion in the work of the French Impressionists during the later years of the Second Empire and the early years of the Third Republic, and Zola's response to its depiction.

David King: ‘Designs for Ladies : the great couturier Worth’
This paper outlined, with many beautiful Belle Époque images, the career of the celebrated couturier, Worth, and commented on the lives of some of his illustrious clients, who included the Empress Eugénie. (Worth appears in Zola's La Curée [The Kill] in the guise of the couturier ‘Worms’.)


Friday 10 February 2017: Illustrated talk by David King on 'Les Soirées de Médan', 6 pm at More House, 53 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2EH.

Past Events: 2016

Friday 2 December 2016: Following our Annual General Meeting at More House, the Rev. Philip Morse, a retired Methodist Minister and member of the Emile Zola Society gave a talk: 'Riders on the Storm: William Morris and Emile Zola travel towards the twentieth century'.

In response to a number of requests the text of the Rev. Morse's talk (with slight revision) is attached here.

Sunday 2 October 2016: Pèlérinage de Médan.

The Society was well-represented at the Pèlérinage de Médan, held on Sunday 2 October 2016, at which the guest of honour was the President of the French Republic, François Hollande.

President Hollande spoke of the restoration of Zola’s house and congratulated the Committee of the Société des Amis d’Émile Zola, and particularly Monsieur Pierre Bergé and Madame Martine Le Blond Zola, for the excellent refurbishment of the building. He underlined the fact that furniture and objects familiar to Zola were recovered from antique shops and, using old photographs, placed where they had always been. He recalled that after her husband’s death Madame Zola auctioned the contents of the house and gave the building to the Assistance Publique.

The President referred to Les Soirées de Médan, and the numerous artists, writers, musicians and friends who regularly visited the Zolas. He said that since 1903 – the date of the first Pélérinage, created by Maurice Le Blond, Zola’s son-in-law – a long list of VIPs had been invited to speak at the anniversary, including François Mitterrand who promised to safeguard the important house. He congratulated and thanked Monsieur Pierre Bergé for having carried out the wishes of his friend and President.

Zola’s name could not be mentioned, said President Hollande, without an immediate reference to the Dreyfus Affair and Zola’s article J’accuse! The President said ‘Zola réveilla la France’ (Zola woke up France). In fact France became split in two, the Dreyfusards and the Anti-Dreyfusards.

For a long time, he said, there had been a wish to create a Dreyfus museum within Médan, and now that the house had been fully restored Pierre Bergé and the Société des Amis d’Émile Zola were planning a museum which was expected to open in 2018.

Finally, said the President, ‘Zola était la France dans son combat (he was France itself in his fight) for the miners in the north of France, the peasants of La Beauce, the sales people of the department stores and the brokers in La Bourse. Zola knew that to serve the cause of Truth and Freedom one had to rise and defend them. He did so!

Anatole France called Zola ‘un moment de la conscience humaine' ('a moment of human conscience'). ‘Zola’s France is a France that does not discriminate between its children, whatever their religion or origin, and does not leave anyone out', said President Hollande.

The President’s address can be found on the following website:

Friday 17 June 2016: the June talk: Filming Zola.

At our meeting on Friday 17 June at More House in London, we met three very enthusiastic and imaginative young cinéastes : Krisztina Losonci, Rory Nolan and Kristína Madarová. They explained how together they had been inspired by their discovery of Zola's Nana and wanted to create a new court métrage scenario, freely adapted from the novel. They intend to explore and develop particular highlights, focussing on the relationship of the young Nana with her friend Satin and a new, invented male character, a street orphan who joins the little group.

Not filming an historical picture, they will be able to play on the idea of life in the street as shown by Zola, bringing it up to date, and showing how young people live in today's slums.

A very interesting discussion followed the screening of a clip from their filmed project. We wish them every success !

The evening was rounded off with a viewing of the amusing, opening scenes of Renoir's famous silent film Nana (1926).


Friday 15 April 2016: Annual Dinner at the Bistro of the French Institute.

As last year, the occasion took the form of an informal buffet-supper at the Bistro at the French Institute. The event was well-attended and the members and guests were warmly welcomed by the President, Valerie Minogue. There was a special welcome for the guest of honour, Alan Riddle, who set up and now manages the society’s website.

Saturday 19 March 2016: 2pm to 6pm: the sixth of our Annual Saturday Seminars,
Senate House, University of London.

Scenes from domestic life

Eileen Horne: ​'Let all be set forth.'

A lay person's view of The Masterpiece​ and Doctor Pascal, the one preceding, and the other following the well-known drama of Zola's ménage, reflecting on the way life is plundered for art - and possibly vice versa, illustrated with some key passages from her recent book, Zola and the Victorians.

Hannah Scott, Girton College, Cambridge: 'Zola (not) at home in England.' 

In the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, Zola found himself forced into a year-long exile in England, surrounded by unfamiliar things and an incomprehensible language. This talk considered how Zola chose to depict the English residence, from trinkets to windows; how he confronted the foreignness of his circumstances in text and image; and how his experience of the English home influenced the representation of domestic life in his French novels.

Anne Green, King’s College, London: 'Families, Secrets and Lies. Domestic Scenes in Flaubert.'

S​ecrets and lies abound​ in Flaubert's domestic life, as well as in those of his characters.​ This paper focused on some easily-missed domestic lies and secrets in L'Éducation sentimentale which are closely related to Louis Bouilhet's play, Hélène Peyron. Such domestic scenes within the family can resonate in the wider world - particularly the world of politics.

Claire Moran, Queen's University, Belfast: 'Threshold Magic: Impressionism and the Domestic Interior.'

This paper focused on representations of permeable domestic spaces, including windows, balconies and doors in Impressionist art, with reference to works by Manet, Caillebotte, Morisot and Cassatt. The discussion drew on developments in interior design and the writings of theorists such as Benjamin, and suggested links to representations of similar spaces in the works of Zola.

Wednesday 27 January 2016: Zola in exile.

At this meeting, held at More House, South Kensington, David King used contemporary photographs, many taken by Emile Zola himself, to describe the French writer’s exile in London during the Dreyfus affair.

Members were also able to view Keith Holdaway’s vast collection of vintage postcards of London and Surrey relating to the time of Zola’s exile.

Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, the translator of many of Zola’s novels,
who took charge of the French writer when he arrived in London.


Some events of previous years


Friday 20 February 2015: Geoff Woollen gave a talk: 'Zola and Ernest Vizetelly: translator's nightmare or nightmare of a translator?'

Saturday 21 March 2015: The fifth of our Annual Saturday Seminars

Zola's Priests

Alison Finch: 'Atheism, joie de vivre and Zola's women'

The spread of the phrase 'joie de vivre' on both sides of the Channel in the wake of Zola's La Joie de vivre, in the context of the Third Republic's stress on 'laïcité'. The situation for women unbelievers at this time (many of them teachers in France's newly secular school system); Zola's Mme Caroline (L'Argent) seen against this background.

Aude Campmas: 'Zola, the priest and the flower'

Zola and Mendel, two 'experimental' naturalists; Mendel a hybrid figure between Dr Pascal and Serge Mouret? the relation of Zola's priests to garden spaces, with special attention to the themes of reproduction and desire in La Faute de l'abbé Mouret, and fear of nature itself, materialised in the female body.

John Hackett: 'Zola and his priests'

Zola's position with regard to Priests and Religion in the Third Republic. Zola's mistrust, in the Rougon-Macquart, of any promise of definitive change, but his move into ideologically committed literature in his final years, a shift exemplified in his 1901 novel, Travail.

Patrick Pollard: 'Zola's Perverted Priests'

An analysis of Vérité aims to show the manner in which this polemical and controversial novel engaged with the political conflict between lay republican values and the prejudiced self-interest of members of the Catholic Church, highlighting damaged innocence on the one side, and hypocrisy, perversion and untruth on the other.


Friday, 17 April 2015: The Society's Annual Dinner, 'Avec Zola à table'. A goodly number of members and guests foregathered for the annual dinner this year, and we all enjoyed a very pleasant and friendly buffet supper at the Bistro in the French Institute.


Friday 12 June 2015: Dr Russell Cousins of the University of Birmingham, a member of the Emile Zola Society, gave a talk on Zola and the cinema. The talk was accompanied by excerpts from some of the film versions of Zola’s novels.

Saturday 11 July 2015: The Annual Outing : a visit to the Walton-Weybridge area of Surrey where Emile Zola spent much of his time in exile from Paris during the Dreyfus affair.

Alas, we were forced to cancel this visit due to reasons beyond our control. We hope to re-arrange the trip either later this year or next year.


Sunday 4 October 2015: The annual visit to Zola's house in Médan.


Friday 4 December 2015: Annual General Meeting at 6 pm. This was held at Baden Powell House, 65 Queensgate, London SW7 5JS. It was followed by pre-Christmas drinks leading on to 'Three sheets in the wind. The decline and fall of a Parisian washerwoman', an illustrated talk by Keith Howell.




The Society’s Fourth Saturday Seminar was held at the French Institute, Queensberry Place, 2-6pm, and was followed by supper at the Bistro. Under the intriguing general heading of ‘Paris-Babylone: The Vices of Empire’, four talks were presented., and there was a good deal of animated discussion.

The Seminar also served to launch the new translation of Zola’s L’Argent, (Money, in the ‘Oxford World’s Classics’ series). Valerie Minogue gave a short talk on L’Argent, Kit Yee Wong spoke on ‘Regeneration: From Death to Life in the Rougon-Macquart’, Professor Anne Green then addressed the subject: ‘Shaping Vice: Flaubert’s Sous Napoléon III’, and Dr Kate Rees concluded the Seminar with ‘Plague, sewer, cesspool: fin de siècle mirrors of the mass press: Zola, Maupassant and The Hornet’s Life’.

All in all, it was a very successful, interesting and enjoyable occasion.


Friday 4 April 2014, 6.30pm:   ‘Avec Zola à Table’, the Society’s Annual Dinner, because of a problem with dates at the Bistro of the French Institute, was held, exceptionally, at ‘Côte’, a restaurant in Turnham Green, West London. It was a very pleasant and amicable evening which everyone enjoyed, though it was rather noisier than one would have liked.


Friday 6 June 2014, 6pm: a talk by David King on Napoleon III.
There was a good turn-out for David's excellent and splendidly illustrated talk on Napoleon III, in which we learned lots of interesting facts - and gossip - about the Emperor's extensive and colourful family.


Sunday 20 July 2014, 2.15pm:   Annual Outing

Our annual outing this year was planned as a tour of Charles Dickens’s House; but plans, as we all know, can sometimes go awry. And they did on this occasion. When five Dickens enthusiasts arrived at the entrance to 48 Doughty Street, they found it barred against all comers. According to the rather scrappy note pinned to the door there had been ‘an incident.’ Exactly what kind of ‘incident’ was not disclosed, and we did not dwell on the possibilities. Our immediate preoccupation was: “What are we going to do?” It was 2.30pm on a very warm summer’s day but, happily, Dickens’ house is in an area full of buildings suitable for entertaining those visitors denied admittance to No. 48. So we headed for the British Museum, like Gervaise’s wedding party going to the Louvre! There we partook of tea and cakes, and chatted amicably. Not quite the afternoon we intended but still a very pleasurable one.
(Report from Pamela Birley.)


Sunday 5 October 2014: Pélérinage de Médan

Our annual visit to Zola's house at Médan was a very pleasant and rewarding occasion. We had an excellent lunch at the ‘Plaisirs d’Eté’ restaurant, then listened to two talks, one by Dr Aurélie Barjonet (University of Paris), and the other by the former French Minister, M. Jean-Pierre Chevènement.


Friday 5 December 2014, 6pm at the French Institute, Annual General Meeting
including pre-Christmas drinks, followed by:
Adultery, Madness and Ghostly Revenge: Therese Raquin in pictures, presented by Keith Howell.


Friday 15 February 2013, 6pm: illustrated talk by David King on Chez Maxim - Maxim's the celebrated Parisian restaurant of the 19th century.  (Re-scheduled from 7 December 2012.)


Friday 12 April 2013, 7.30 for 8pm: ‘Avec Zola à table’: the Emile Zola Society's Annual Buffet Dinner, at the Bistrot of the French Institute.


Friday 21 June 2013, 6pm: a talk by Professor Robert Lethbridge on 'Zola's Manets'.


Sunday 6 October 2013: Pélérinage de Médan - our annual visit to Zola's house at Médan.
Meeting at St Lazare Station, train to Villennes, then after a walk (just under an hour) to Médan, lunch at the ‘Plaisirs d’Eté’ restaurant by the river Seine, followed by celebrations at Zola’s House.
A coach took the ‘Pilgrims’ back from Médan to Villennes Station and a train back to St Lazare.


18 and 19 October 2013: The Émile Zola Society 2013 Colloquium
Rethinking the Real – Fiction, Art and Theatre in the time of Émile Zola

On 18 and 19 October 2013, the Émile Zola Society London held an international Conference in central London, at the University of Notre Dame in London, 1 Suffolk Street London, SW1, with the support of the University of Notre Dame, Birkbeck College and the Institut français du Royaume-Uni. Guests of honour were M. Henri Mitterand and Mme Martine Le Blond-Zola. 

The conference, held in the sumptuous surroundings of the University of Notre Dame in London, was voted a great success by all who participated – from Canada, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Subjects ranged widely, covering writers, musicians and painters — from Zola and Gustave Charpentier, Zola and Balzac, Zola and Henry James, to Frank Norris, an American Naturalist writer. Maupassant, Positivism and Manet all received attention, as well as Zola in his role as photographer, as abstractionist, and as a less than totally reliable historian. There were illuminating analyses of individual Rougon-Macquart novels and a final slideshow of cartoons and illustrations showing the colourful career of Anna (Nana) Coupeau.

Our Guests of Honour made excellent contributions to the Colloquium, as well as being friendly and lively presences on the social scene. Martine Le Blond-Zola presented a detailed slideshow of the refurbishment of the house in Médan, and Henri Mitterand brilliantly analysed the confluence in Zola of the roman populaire and the roman artiste. An English translation of that paper has appeared in the Bulletin of the Emile Zola Society, while the original, along with other papers, is included in the Colloquium volume, which was published in 2014.

Snacks, tea and coffee and (occasionally) wine, were served in between lectures, so people were able to continue to exchange reflections and ideas. The Colloquium was, all in all, a very pleasant and stimulating occasion.

A delightfully convivial dinner was held in Brown’s on the evening of Friday October 18, and on the morning of Sunday October 20, a group of conference participants went to see the splendid collection of Impresssionist and post-Impressionist paintings at the Courtauld Gallery.

‘Rethinking the Real’, October 18 - 19 2013 at the University of Notre Dame, London

Keynote Speakers (Invités d’honneur):

~ Henri Mitterand: Roman populaire et roman artiste : Zola au carrefour. Avec une brève application à L’Assommoir.

~ Martine Le Blond-Zola: Rénovation de la Maison de Zola à Médan.

Colloquium Papers :

April, Robert S. : An American Zola, Frank Norris (1870-1902) and his naturalistic novels.

Baguley, David : La Fortune des Rougon : History and Travesty.

Chavasse, Philippe : La quête identitaire de Georges Eekhoud, naturaliste belge.

Cousins, Russell : Zola's industrial soundscapes.

Davies, David: The Influence of L’Assommoir on Henry James’s The Princess Casamassima.

Farrant, Tim : Balzac and Zola – Realism, Naturalism and Passion.

Hackett, J. : Germinal and Au Bonheur des Dames: Rethinking Zola’s Economic Determinism.

Harrow, Susan : Dissolving the Real: Zola as colourist and abstractionist.

Howell, Keith : Strumpet. The life of Anna Coupeau from the cradle to the grave.

Lehman, Meredith : Re-reading Zola through the lens of his photographs.

Macke, Jean-Sébastien : Gustave Charpentier: Le « Zola de la musique » ?

Marzel, Shoshana Rose : Zola et la surenchère dramatique.

Moran, Claire : Play-within-a-Play: Manet’s Self-Portraits and the Art of Performance.

Piton-Foucault, Emilie : De l’art en vitrine dans Les Rougon-Macquart d’Emile Zola.

Rand Hoare, Michael: Auguste Comte and positivism in Franco-British Naturalism.

Santos, Dulce : Repenser le féminin : le rôle de la femme chez Zola.

*Snipes-Hoyt, Carolyn : The Dreyfus Affair in Octave Mirbeau’s ‘Farces et moralités’.

Sreenan, Niall: Germinal, natural selection, and Uexküllian Umwelt.

*Stock, Karen A. : Beyond the Screen of Representation in the Works of Degas and Zola.

Van Tooren, Marjolein : Les impressionnistes dans le roman de peintre contemporain.

Wolter, Jennifer : Maupassant and the Illusion of Reality.

Wong, Kit Yee : Haussmann's Paris in Zola’s Nana and L’Assommoir.

Woollen, Geoff : Breakfast at Dreyfus’s: libel of the label in naturalist fiction.

* speakers had to withdraw from the Colloquium through illness, but the papers are included in the Colloquium volume.


Friday 29 November 2013,  6pm:  Annual General Meeting
followed at 7pm by a talk - with slides - by Patrick Pollard: 'Travelling by train with Zola'



An afternoon of talks and discussions, in English, followed by an optional, informal dinner, at The French Institute, 17 Queensberry Place, London,  SW7 on  Saturday 25 February 2012, from 2-6 p.m.

The central theme this year was:

'Seeing Life... with Zola and his contemporaries'

Dr A.J. Counter (Cambridge)
‘Dreyfus, Vérité, and Zola's fin-de-siecle Sexual Politics’

Cécilia Falgas-Ravry (Cambridge) 
‘Passive Criminals, Absent Convicts: Zola's break with traditional criminal characterisation.’

Dr Jann Matlock (London)
'Seeing Ghosts with Zola: La Curée in the Shadow of the Commune.'

Keith Howell (London) Vice-President of the Emile Zola Society
'Saints, Sinners, Pigs and Ordure.  Emile Zola through the eyes of others'. 


30 March 2012, 7.30pm: ‘Avec Zola à table’: the Emile Zola Society Dinner, at the Bistrot of the French Institute.


15 June 2012, 6pm: ‘Toulouse-Lautrec’, a talk by David Hillier-King, our Publicity Officer.


7 July 2012: An outing to Darwin’s House

The outing this year was to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin the English naturalist. Although his famous work Origin of the Species caused great controversy on publication, by the end of his life he was universally recognised and the book considered a great achievement.

The house, to which he moved after his marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgwood, is set in a pleasant garden and covers two storeys. Amongst other mementoes, the house is full of memories relating to his voyage in 1831-1836 aboard HMS Beagle, during its world voyage and contains many of his original artefacts and furniture.


7 October 2012: Pilgrimage to Médan: Meeting between 10/10.30 a.m. at Gare St Lazare (upstairs, on platform of the departure train). Because of on-going refurbishment work it was not possible to visit Zola’s house.


Friday 7 December 2012, 6pm: Annual General Meeting followed by pre-Christmas drinks and readings in French and English, with some comments and discussion on two great financial swindlers, Zola's Saccard (in L'Argent) and Trollope's Melmotte (in The Way We Live Now).