Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity

Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity

Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity

Jules Verne: Narratives of Modernity

Excerpt

The nineteenth century in France is, as we all know, the Golden Age of the Realist novel. However, other Golden Ages existed in the nineteenth century in the form of a number of textual utopias (one thinks immediately of Saint-Simon and Fourier); and it is the era which saw the burgeoning of the narrative form science fiction.

The above statements appear to suggest that we are dealing with three distinct modes of narrative discourse; in fact their interpenetration is considerable at a number of levels in writings of the nineteenth century, and the works of Jules Verne provide an unrivalled example of this phenomenon, as the title of this essay seeks to suggest. in the following pages I aim to examine the interface between Realism, utopianism and science fiction in a number of Verne's novels. These novels, whatever one's judgement of them in terms of ‘great literature’, provide an interesting case study of the way in which a particular vision of society is constructed from a number of different nineteenth-century perspectives. Such a fictional vision may well have appeared to readers of the time to be not the world ‘as they knew it’; however, from a distance of over a hundred years and from the perspective of narratology, it is possible to see how this vision relies for its being on the conventions and ideologies of Realism and utopianism, genres which were to live on in science-fiction narratives of the twentieth century.

Although I shall examine separately the various formal, thematic and ideological aspects of these different genres in Verne's novels, I shall at the same time point to ways in which they interact. This study makes reference to only a relatively small number of Verne's most widely read works (and which, it must be noted, cannot be seen as representative of the whole corpus); it nevertheless adopts an approach which allows us to go beyond . . .

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