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Title: Émile Zola and Michel Houellebecq : writing at tipping points in capitalism
Author: Hackett, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 6929
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2019
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Émile Zola and Michel Houellebecq are writing at points of exponential capitalist change in France. The vernacular phrase 'tipping point', as described by Malcolm Gladwell, attempts to capture the idea of sudden change within society. However, the concept of the tipping point offered in this thesis is more complex and analogous to the working of capitalism and literature. This thesis proposes an original extra-textual metaphor reflecting how change is composed of plural, evolving phenomena, involving intersecting contributors, contingency and reversals. Like the literature it seeks to illuminate, this theory of the tipping point offers a purchase on the process of fiction as it attempts to represent change within the context of capitalism. This thesis pairs Zola and Houellebecq who are both writing at key points in capitalism's evolution. The growth of capitalism has been linked to that of the novel and follows similar diverging, evolving trajectories to that outlined in the critical figure of the tipping point in this thesis. In attempting to represent such rapid, non-linear change, both authors exceed their extra-textual theories. Through close reading of their novels this will reveal to varying degrees the impossibility of predicting change or offering conclusions, characteristics also pertaining to capitalism. This is illustrated through a pairing of three selected works from each writer on capitalism's relationship with sex, science and excess. The comparisons, when read through the lens of the tipping point, reveal how novels necessarily fail to represent the changes to which they attempt to bear witness. The concept of the tipping point reveals the multiple contributors to change in capitalism and the co-implication of fiction in the market, along with its potential agency in attempting to capture those changes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Tipping ; points ; Capitalism ; Zola ; Houellebecq