Emile Zola, a guinea pig of doctor Toulouse

Emile Zola, cobaye du docteur ToulouseIn 1896 appeared the first investigation medico-psychological on the reports of the intellectual superiority with the neuropathy of Doctor Toulouse. Émile Zola is his first subject of investigation. He will be with Poincaré, one of the only.

Offering his body and his brain in the investigation of medico-psychological of this young psychiatrist, Zola accepts to be photographed, to measure, to weigh, to examine, as an issue of laboratory. There is a large number of tests, both physical and psychic : fingerprinting, and anthropometric measurements cranial, hearing, smell, urine, everything.Emile Zola, cobaye du docteur Toulouse

All the examinations which Zola submits meeting his faith in science, as recalled by Jacqueline Carroy[1], but also of his admiration for the work of Claude Bernard[2]. The medical measures to give the investigation a tower scientist without such, it further takes the gait of an experiment, all of which are certainly not without influence in the involvement of Zola. The proximity of the projects according to us the enthusiasm of emile Zola for this investigation : the investigation of the doctor of the Toulouse meeting the project Zola to investigate the social world, which he expressed in literary form in The Rougon Macquart. It’s a legitimate a posteriori.

It is also important to acceptance to the account of the recognition of Zola that it accredits. It allows you to counter the analyses of Nordau and Lombroso, who had expressed reservations about the artists thinking that allEmile Zola, cobaye du docteur Toulousecould be considered as ” epilepsy, sick and degenerate “, as reminded by Michael Hagner, in his book brains of genius: A history of research on the brains of elite. If he suffers a number of nervous disorders, Zola is not subject to the degeneration of the mind.

The investigation of dr. Toulouse lends credibility to Émile Zola. The letter urges the “subject” in the preface of the book is the witness ” did you Know that your study combat victoriously the fool legend ? You can’t ignore the fact that for the past thirty years, it makes me a lout, an ox for plowing, leather, thick, coarse, fulfilling its task heavily, in the unique need of lucre… And if I laugh today, it is that it seems to me that you bury, the ox, and that he will no longer be discussed, for people of good faith,” wrote Zola. This is his report to the literary playfulness that is played and its recognition by peers. If the 6 April 1891, Zola became president of the société des Gens de Lettres, the French Academy, he resists in spite of the stubbornness that he makes the conquer : between 1890 and 1898, he candidate 25 times. Zola is there a scientific way of gaining legitimacy, in agreement with the privilege that it grants to the science. The experimental method that he wants to transpose to the literature finds here an illustration, Zola becoming its own case study with the complicity of doctor Toulouse. For Michael Hagner if ” Toulouse is certainly responsible for the book as the author, […] it is at the bottom of a common work to which have collaborated with the authorities in paris met, and above all, Zola himself’ ((op cit., p. 192)), through a ” co-production of the presentation of self and of the diagnostic “.

Analyzing the correspondence between the two men, Jacqueline Carroy shows that dr. Toulouse wrote to Zola calling him ” My dear Master “, when Zola addresses the doctor by ” My dear doctor “. It highlights the tenuous relationship that has developed between the two men and think that Zola finds a way to objectify. It would be in the use of the appellation “My dear doctor,” questioning medical Zola : in his first letter to the doctor, Zola mentions his neuropathic disturbances. More widely we believe that these terms of address show a co-construction of scientific legitimacy between the two men. The investigation of Dr. Toulouse is made possible by the submission of Zola diagnostics : Zola being his first ” subject of study “, it is its acceptance which makes it doctor. Calling Zola his ” dear master “, Toulouse acknowledges the intellectual superiority of Zola, since this is also what makes the investigation. These terms of address, the letters exchanged and the good will of Zola are, therefore, of the acts performing.


[1] Jacqueline Carroy. “” My brain is like in a skull glass : Émile Zola about Édouard Toulouse “, Journal of the history of the Nineteenth century, 20/21, 2000.

[2] The book Le Roman experimental de Zola is the embodiment of this admiration positivist, as it is for Zola to apply to literature the methods of science.

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