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Madame Bovary and Catastrophism: Revolving narratives

Ruth Morris


This paper locates Madame Bovary within the scientific milieu of 1850s French society by reading Flaubert’s narrative as a Cuverian text. The French scientist Georges Cuvier, along with many of his contemporaries, formulated the catastrophist theory as a means of explaining the origins of the world. In catastrophism, the world is divided into very discrete time periods which are punctuated by vast catastrophes, or in Cuverian terminology ‘revolutions’ that have eradicated life and enabled the world to be repopulated afresh. This has implications for the concept of ‘time’. Cuvier theorises the earth as being relatively recent in origin, with the present epoch being only five thousand years old. This compression of time can be inferred in Madame Bovary through references to rapidity and the tempo which increases towards the denouement. In catastrophism and Madame Bovary, time is not constructed in a linear or chronological manner. The ‘revolutions’ disrupt a realisation of continuous time and Emma is frequently unable to distinguish between past, present and future experiences. The ‘revolutions’ also serve to puncture and disrupt the status quo of life by creating massive events within the earth’s history. Emma’s life too parallels this. She regards her existence as being informed by magnitudinous events, such as the ball, which creates dislocated and fragmented time as in Cuviers’ theory. I will also argue for a connection between the suddenness and violence of the ‘revolutions’ and Emma Bovary’s emotional outbursts which occur without for-warning and border on the hysterical. A Cuverian concept of time has implications for other considerations which are arguably the main differences between catastrophism and evolution theory. These include the notions of adaptation, inheritance and death within Flaubert’s narrative.

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  • 1  Mary Elizabeth Braddon, letter to Bulwer-Jones, Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life (...)

1The publication of The Doctor’s Wife (1864)by Mary Elizabeth Braddon is arguably one of the first adaptations of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary into English literature. Braddon herself explicitly stated the idea for this novel“is founded on Madame Bovary.1This assertion creates a number of parallels between the texts in plot and characterisation but yet the two acts which arguably define Emma, her committing both adultery and suicide, are denied by Isabel. The gender of the writers, differences in national literatures as well as legal, political or cultural considerations could all have affected the novels but this paper proposes that the scientific contexts of each work could be read as influencing the differences in the novels due to the events between the publications of the two novels.

  • 2  Stephen, Heath, Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, (Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, (...)

2Madame Bovary was serialised in 1856 and published in book form in 1857 although Flaubert began its composition on the evening of 19th September 18512. At this time, the model of catastrophism was widely regarded as one of the leading positions in geological debate. The French palaeontologist Georges Cuvier, along with his supporters, had formulated the catastrophist model as a means of explaining the origins of the world. In this model, the world is divided into very discrete time periods which are punctuated by vast catastrophes, or in Cuverian terminology “revolutions” that have eradicated life. By 1864, the year of The Doctor’s Wife, ideas around the genesis of the world had changed considerably, especially in England. The publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life challenged the catastrophist view of creation. This paper is not suggesting that catastrophism and evolution are dichotomous as this would overlook and confuse several layers of scientific thought and practice in the period. Catastrophism was a specific position within the debate about the scale and nature of past geological processes whereas evolutionary theories were concerned with the progression and development of mankind. The nature of geological causes and the origin of species were clearly two positions on two different spectra of debate but as they were each prevalent at the time Flaubert and Braddon were writing, they will provide the focus for the scientific contexts of the writers.

  • 3  Most texts are from MJS Rudwick, Georges Cuvier, fossil bones, and geological catastrophes: new tr (...)
  • 4  I am indebted to Robert E. Stebbins, The Comparative Reception of Darwinism, ed. by Thomas F. Glic (...)

3The Cuvier texts being examined range from 1798 to 18453. The last text was published just over a decade before Madame Bovary at a time when Cuvier’s influence was widespread. The theory remained generally well accepted in France for a number of decades. The impact of Darwinian evolution in France was therefore greatly different from in England. In many respects the debate about ‘evolution’, as would be considered from a present day perspective, had occurred in France thirty years before its contention in England. The single most dramatic event in French evolutionary discussion took place on July 19, 1830. Georges Cuvier squelched the relatively mild evolutionary position of Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Geoffroy, following Lamarck, had attempted to defend the mutability of species and the continuity of development in life forms. Cuvier ridiculed Lamarck’s argument and insisted that Geoffroy’s own investigations of Egyptian remains over six thousand years old had proved that no transformation of species had taken place in the years assumed to have passed before that time4. As Cuvier was such an authority in French science and as he had denounced Lamarckian evolution from which Darwin would draw some of his inferences, it would seem that the predominant scientific theory when Flaubert was writing Madame Bovary was catastrophism.

  • 5  Information from Alberto Cento, Commentaire de Bouvard et Pecuchet, (Napoli, Ligori, 1973), p. 9.
  • 6  The texts are: Barruel, (G.) Traité élémentaire de géologie, minéralogie et géognésie…avec une pré (...)

4References to Cuvier and catastrophism permeate Flaubert’s works and correspondence suggesting that Flaubert was aware of the Baron’s ideas. Bouvard et Pécuchet, Flaubert’s last work, shows evidence of scientific reading. The bibliography for its composition demonstrates Flaubert read not only geological texts but also distinctly catastrophist and Cuverian texts5. The catalogue includes works by Barruel, Caumont, Huzar, Lambert and Omalius6, which all engage with geology and some more specifically with the origins and ends of the earth. More catastrophist texts such as those by Bertrand (Lettres sur les révolutions du globe, 5e éd.), Buffon (Les époques de la nature, édition inconnue) and Orbigny (Cours élémentaire de paléontologie et de géologie stratigraphiques), all suggest a deeper awareness and engagement with this scientific theory in particular. The bibliography also specifically includes Cuvier’s work, Discours sur les révolutions du Globe, Paris, Passard, 1864.

5Cuvier is mentioned by name in Bouvard et Pécuchet. For example, Dumouchel sends the two protagonists “les Lettres de Bertrand avec le Discours de Cuvier sur les révolutions du globe”(p. 106) and Bouvard later quotes from this work: “Bouvard se rappelait avoir lu ces détails dans Bertrand : “Mais de pareils cataclysmes n’arrivent pas en Europe ?” (p. 114). Their dialogue engages with more catastrophist ideas. They discuss the theory and consider its merits: “toutes ces époques avaient été séparées les unes des autres par des cataclysmes, dont le dernier est notre déluge” (p. 107) and they search for evidence of its efficacy: “toutes les collines étaient pour eux “encore une preuve du Déluge” (p. 112). They also use distinctly catastrophist terminology: “Á moins que la terre ne soit anéantie par un cataclysme !” (p. 114). It is not just the eponymous characters either who discuss the ideas. The curé for example agrees with a Cuverian view of time as it affirms the days of creation in the Bible: “il estimait cette science [geology]. Elle confirme l’autorité des Écritures en prouvant le Déluge” (p. 107). These references suggest that Flaubert engaged with the geological texts in order to weave some of the ideas and debates into this work.

6Of course these references to Cuvier could be another way in which Flaubert is mocking scientific methodologies. After each occasion when Cuvier is mentioned, the following experiments fail. This could suggest that Flaubert was hinting how attempting to understand the history of the globe through geological fragments is as futile as trying to understand human history through archaeology. Indeed the narrative speaks of the fragmentary nature of the science and how its incompleteness could well be its greatest downfall: “La géologie est trop défectueuse ! Á peine connaissons-nous quelques endroits de l’Europe. Quant au reste, avec le fond des Océans, on l’ignorera toujours” (p. 120). This counters Cuvier’s reconstruction of entire species from fossils and fragments of fossils.

7As in the text in its entirety, the characters do not have absolute faith in one theory alone and Cuvier is no exception. Contradictory theories about the origins and ends of the earth are mentioned and the characters agree with these too to a greater or lesser extent. For example:

Cuvier jusqu’à présent leur avait apparu dans l’éclat d’une auréole, au sommet d’une science indiscutable. Elle était sapée […] Par des biographies et des extraits, ils apprirent quelque chose des doctrines de Lamarck et de Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (p. 116).

8Mentioning Lamarck and Saint-Hilaire, with whom Cuvier very publically disagreed, demonstrates that Cuvier is just another scientist in the debate and not the definitive answer to the controversial issues. Indeed it is not just in one theory that the characters are uncertain, as in their geological musings, the bare fundamentals of geology are questioned:

ce qui est système pour l’un est pour l’autre un étage, pour un troisième une simple assise. Les feuillets des couches s’entremêlent, s’embrouillent ; mais Omalius d’Halloy vous prévient qu’il ne faut pas croire aux divisions géologiques (p. 112).

9It would therefore be problematic to suggest that Cuvier’s ideas are being agreed or denied in Bouvard et Pécuchet, but the mentions of the geologist do suggest a fairly deep awareness of his theories.

  • 7  Mary Orr, Flaubert's Tentation: remapping nineteenth-century French histories of religion and scie (...)

10Bouvard et Pécuchet is by no means the only text in which catastrophist notions can be considered. Mary Orr for example has re-read La Tentation de Saint Antoine in both a religious and a geological light with specific references to Cuvier7. L’Education Sentimentale is perhaps the text which is most directly equated with the idea of revolutions as the bourgeois revolution of 1848 is in the background of the action. This political revolution can clearly be mapped onto a geological revolution as there is the same notion of the status quo being overturned, of a destruction of all that has gone before and also of death, which is pervasive in the novel. Indeed this is made more explicit. Dambreuse fears “La terre allait crouler !” (p. 323) and when Frédéric and Rosanette journey, they comment about the rocks:

Elles [les roches] se multipliaient de plus en plus […] telles que les ruines méconnaissables, et monstreuses de quelque cité disparue. Mais la furie même de leur chaos fait plutôt rêver à des volcans, à des déluges, aux grands cataclysmes ignorés. Frédéric disait qu’elles étaient là depuis le commencement du monde et resteraient ainsi jusqu’à la fin (p. 353).

11The rocks figure as a witness to the catastrophe which is going on around them which has clear parallels with the role of a palaeontologist, “reading” the geological landscape to reconstruct the past. This awareness of Cuverian ideas can also be read into Madame Bovary. Attention is drawn to time throughout the novel. Léon for example notices “le coucou de perruquier” (p. 364) and Rodolphe’s clock “avec des incrustations d’écailles” (p. 455) is mentioned when Emma is seeking money. Watches are also noticeable. At the wedding party, the guests have “des chaînes de montre en or” (p. 86), Emma saw some women “qui portaient à leur montre un paquet de breloques” (p. 132) and she comments that Rodolphe has “des breloques pour sa montre !” (p. 455). The references to timepieces which pepper the narrative affirm the importance which is attached to this concept.

  • 8  Elissa Marder, Dead Time: Temporal disorders in the wake of modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert), ( (...)

12A lot has been written about Flaubert’s writing or rather rewriting of time. In Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity, Elissa Marder writes, “both Baudelaire and Flaubert have become renowned, in part, on account of the novel temporal structures and unusual representations of time that we find in their works.”8 In its entirety Madame Bovary can be read as a narrative about people who are “out of time” whether that be out of sync with the other characters or unable to construct a temporal reality for themselves. Indeed the free indirect style leads to an authorial presence which is essentially disembodied and in that sense “out of time and space.” The notion of “the event” which disrupts the progress of time, is a noticeable feature of the narrative.

13Flaubert wrestled with how his own novel is punctuated by events, and the weighting of these across the three parts of the narrative. Benjamin Bart states that:

  • 9  Benjamin Bart, Flaubert, (Syracuse, N.Y, Syracuse University Press, [1967]), p. 292.

the preparation Flaubert feared, had been far too long: the active part was going to seem short in contrast. But these were, he felt, the natural proportions. One dreamed and longed for an event for years; its accomplishment sometimes filled only minutes9.

  • 10  Marder, Dead Time, op. cit., p. 122.

14This suggests that the beginnings of the narrative are fairly “eventless”. Elissa Marder comments on the motif of the hat as an introductory “event”; “the hat announces the perverse anti-chronological nature of the narrative itself. Paradoxically, the very same eventful object that gets the story started functions simultaneously to stop the passage of time.”10 It is this inherent contradiction which lies at the complexity of ‘the event’ in Flaubert’s narrative, but it is possible to read the novel as a Cuverian realisation of “the event” as a geological revolution.

15Both Madame Bovary in its entirety and more specifically Emma’s life seem to be essentially a landscape of boredom which is punctuated by vast and significant events. Yonville l’Abbaye is frequently described as a locus of ennui. For example “le langage est sans accentuation, comme le paysage sans caractère” (p. 146) which topographically embodies this tedium. It is continued by Emma and Rodolphe. They “parlèrent de la médiocrité provinciale, des existences qu’elle étouffait” (p. 235) and Emma’s perception of the town when she rides in the Hirondelle emphasises this: “la pleine campagne remontait ensuite d’un mouvement monotone” (p. 393). Each of these aligns incessant boredom with the town they occupy.

16This boredom is continued by specific objects or separate microcosms in the town. Her room shows this: “elle remontait, fermait la porte, étalait les charbons, et, défaillant à la chaleur du foyer, sentait l’ennui plus lourd qui retombait sur elle” (p. 136). The pervasive boredom takes on a physical presence. The narrative describes the new flax-mill being erected near Yonville: “rien pourtant n’était moins curieux que cette curiosité” (p. 187). Emma’s familiarity with Yonville expands her boredom: “elle connaissait trop la campagne ; elle savait le bêlement des troupeaux, les laitages, les charrues” (p. 99). The boredom of the place affects other characters too. The Baliff’s man, “sans doute s’ennuyant dans sa cachette” (p. 436), makes a noise, and even after Emma’s death, each visitor to the house “s’ennuyait d’une façon démesurée” (p. 479). Even the spaniel appears to be bored. Emma watches “la mine mélancolique du svelte animal qui bâillait avec lenteur” (p. 112). Significantly it is within this landscape of boredom that certain magnitudinous events occur which shatter the status quo.

17The Agricultural Show in particular punctuates this landscape of boredom. Before the show has even been decided, Homais comments that “serait pour notre arrondissement de la dernière importance !” (p. 215). The preparations begin early “le matin de la solemnité” (p. 227) and “tous les habitants” (p. 227) are involved. The men are drilled separately and create a memorable display: “jamais il n’y avait eu pareil déploiement de pompe !” (p. 228). These vast “revolutions” in the earth’s history have long lasting implications and this is also subtly affirmed by Flaubert’s narrative. In le Fanal de Rouen, “il y avait un grand article sur les comices” (p. 254). By committing the event to paper the Show is marked out as a massive event which has long lasting effects.

18Hippolyte’s thigh amputation is also described as a major event: “ce fut dans le village un événement considérable que cette amputation de cuisse par le docteur Canivet ! Tous les habitants, ce jour-là levés de meilleure heure” (p. 290). Mme Tuvache who “ne bougeait pas de sa fenêtre, par l’impatience où elle était de voir venir l’opérateur” (p. 290) reinforces the magnitude of this event and how it permeates the entire community. In a similar way to the Agricultural Show, Charles’ attempt at curing the clubfoot is also recorded in the newspaper “Fanal de Rouen”(p. 284). Even in recording this event, Homais mentions “la prochaine fête villageoise” (p. 285) which invokes the two most significant events that punctuate the ennui. To a lesser degree, Berthe’s christening is also described as an event because of the celebrations it causes: “le soir de la cérémonie il y eut un grand dîner ; le curé s’y trouvait ; on s’échauffa” (p. 173).

19Emma’s own life reflects this same pattern as it too is composed of discrete events. Again much of her life seems to revolve around boredom. At her childhood home, Emma’s “regard” is “noyé d’ennui” (p. 82), and in her dissatisfaction with Leon, “chaque sourire cachait un bâillement d’ennui, chaque joie une malédiction” (p. 421). Emma also reflects a lot upon her boredom. She wants to live in the town during the winter months “quoique la longueur des beaux jours rendît peut-être la campagne plus ennuyeuse encore durant l’été” (p. 81), when Charles is grieving for his father, “elle s’ennuyait si prodigieusement depuis deux jours !” (p. 382) and the narrative metaphorically compounds her general outlook: “l’ennui, araignée silencieuse, filait sa toile dans l’ombre à tous les coins de son coeur” (p. 111). Emma is also more vocal about her boredom. For example she beckons Rodolphe “pour lui dire qu’elle s’ennuyait” (p. 295). As with the Yonville community in its entirety however the boredom of Emma’s life is punctuated by events which carry great significance.

20The ball at La Vaubyessard is perhaps one of the most important events to happen to Emma. It is heralded as a massive and unusual event in Emma’s life: “Mais, vers la fin de septembre, quelque chose d’extraordinaire tomba dans sa vie : elle fut invitée à la Vaubyessard, chez le marquis d’Andervilliers” (p. 112). Her memories of the dance reinforce it as a magnitudinous event: “son voyage à la Vaubyessard avait fait un trou dans sa vie” (p. 126) and stresses this “trou” by counting off the amount of time since she was there: “il y a huit jours… il y a quinze jours… il y a trois semaines” (p. 126). Indeed the memories are so indelibly imprinted that even in the following year, she marks the anniversary of the event: “dès le commencement de juillet, elle compta sur ses doigts combien de semaines lui restaient pour arriver au mois d’octobre, pensant que le marquis d’Andervilliers, peut-être, donnerait encore un bal à la Vaubyessard” (p. 134). Emma looks at the ball as such a significant event that she names her daughter in memory of it: “Enfin, Emma se souvint qu’au château de la Vaubyessard elle avait entendu la marquise appeler Berthe une jeune femme ; dès lors ce-nom-là fut choisi” (p. 173). To a lesser extent her rendez-vous with Léon also punctuate her boredom. When faced with misery with Charles, they become “ses jours de gala. Elle les voulait splendides !” (p. 427).

21Emma also yearns for events to happen: “les autres existences, si plates qu’elles fussent, avaient du moins la chance d’un événement […] Mais, pour elle, rien n’arrivait” (p. 135) and during her convalescence, she “quotidiennement attendait, avec une sorte d’anxiété, l’infaillable retour d’événements minimes, qui pourtant ne lui importaient guère” (p. 327). Even though she does not actively participate in these “événements minimes”, her life is still affected by their presence. Similarly when she first meets up with Léon after his residence in Paris, “ils se racontèrent les petits événements de cette existence lointaine” (p. 360). Again these events are only small but as they punctuate her life, they become imbued with greater significance.

22The unpredictability of the revolutions is a key theme in Cuvier’s theory. In Essay on the Theory of the Earth, Cuvier stresses his uncertainty about the causes of these “revolutions”. He states:

  • 11  Cuvier, Essay on the Theory of the Earth (Edinburgh, Blackwood, 1815), p. 24.

it has long been considered possible to explain the more ancient revolutions on its surface by means of these still existing causes […] the thread of operation is here broken, the march of nature is changed, and none of the agents that she now employs were sufficient for the production of her ancient works11.

  • 12  Rosemary Lloyd, Madame Bovary, (London, Unwin Hyman, 1990), p. 132.

23If the cause cannot be found then it is impossible to predict the next catastrophe. This unpredictability can also be read in Flaubert’s narrative. Rosemary Lloyd has commented that “Flaubert is not interested in a precise and carefully orchestrated chronology, often preferring to introduce dates that have a private value for him, rather than bother for instance, with counting the months of Emma’s pregnancy.”12 This creates a narrative in Madame Bovary where events do not seem to happen when they should.

24Charles is not put in the right school year according to his age. He is put “en cinquième” and “si son travail et sa conduite sont méritoires, il passera dans les grands où l’appelle son âge” (p. 55) which accentuates the disjunction between his age and that of his classmates. Indeed Charles does not start school when he should. His parents “ne l’ayant envoyé au collège que le plus tard possible” (p. 59) and it takes a long time for him to enrol even once the decision is made: “Six mois se passèrent encore ; et, l’année d’après, Charles fut défininitement envoyé au collège de Rouen” (p. 63). The unpredictability of events is a clear pattern in the narrative.

25The two major excursions which Emma makes, to the theatre with Charles and to the cathedral with Léon, both occur either earlier or later than they should. At the theatre, Charles “craignait beaucoup de manquer le commencement ; et, sans avoir eu le temps d’avaler un bouillon, ils se présentèrent devant les portes du théâtre, qui étaient encore fermées” (p. 339). They also leave the theatre before the play has finished, a decision which Charles laments: “je regrette d’être parti avant la fin, car ça commençait à m’amuser” (p. 349). The same continues at the cathedral. Although it is difficult to ascertain from the narrative whether Emma is actually late for her rendezvous with Leon, there is a clear sense of Leon waiting for her: “cependant elle ne venait pas” (p. 366). Léon and Emma also leave before the end of the tour: “Le Suisse demeura tout stupéfait, ne comprenant point cette munificence intempestive lorsqu’il restait encore à l’étranger tant de choses à voir” (p. 369). By arriving at the wrong time and leaving at the wrong time, there is a disparity between when events should occur and when they actually do which accords with the non-predictable nature of catastrophes.

  • 13  Dominick LaCapra, Madame Bovary on Trial, (Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 1 (...)

26There are also more subtle examples of events not occurring as expected. During their preparations to elope, Rodolphe “vint le soir, plus tôt que de coutume” (p. 309) and after Emma’s death, old Rouault “n’avait reçu la lettre du pharmacien que trente-six heures après l’événement” (p. 483). Dominic LaCapra highlights the significance of characters arriving too late in the overall narrative structure. He states Dr Larivière “arrives too late-too late to save Emma and too late for more extensive characterisation.”13 Events not occurring when they should and established patterns of repetitions being disrupted allows for more of a Cuverian reading due to the notion of catastrophes and revolutions altering the overall landscape of time.

27By contrast, Darwin expounds the idea “Natura non facit saltum” (p. 233), arguing that time is both continuous and eventless as it is not punctuated by vast revolutions. Braddon’s narrative makes frequent reference to its uneventful nature. The narrator states that “the tranquil days crept back and left no mark by which they might be remembered” (p. 53), the residents of Graybridge-on-the-Wayverley have regular lives which know “no greater change than the slow alternation of the seasons, whose orderly existences were never disturbed by an event” (p. 53), and Roland contemplates “the blank weariness which men call existence” (p. 391). The honeymoon, which one would expect to be marked out as an event as it is the harbinger of a new section in Isabels’ life, is also fairly eventless: the “solemn church-like stillness” is “only broken by the occasional tinkling of silver spoons in the distance” (p. 105).

28Unlike Emma whose life is dictated by events, Isabel perceives her life as being “a dreary blank that must be endured somehow or other” (p. 165). She speaks of “the blank days in which there was no bright oasis of dinner” (p. 71) and laments that “so many days had closed upon the same dull record, the same empty page” (p. 82). She also considers her life to be “one dreary record of grief and trouble” (p. 376). The adjective “one” denotes the unity of her life and thereby negates an existence which has been “eventful” in the same way Emma’s has. This is not to suggest that no events occur in the novel, but more that those which do are not perceived to have the same magnitude as in Madame Bovary.

  • 14  Braddon mentions Darwin in many of her later novels such as The Golden Calf (1883), The Fatal Thre (...)

29Chronologically it is possible to read Flaubert’s novel as engaging with catastrophist notions of time, and Braddon as according with more evolutionary ideas as the landmark text Origin of Species was published between the English and French novels. This supposition becomes stronger as it is apparent that both Braddon and Flaubert had an awareness of the scientific contexts in which they were living and writing14. The notion of “revolutions” is perhaps the most obvious difference between the scientific theories. This paper has given a brief sketch of just one way in which these different realisations of time in the scientific theories may have affected the subsequent reworking in the English novel by considering the structure of each narrative in terms of “the event.”

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1  Mary Elizabeth Braddon, letter to Bulwer-Jones, Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, (New York, Garland Pub., 1979),p. 135.

2  Stephen, Heath, Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, (Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 4.

3  Most texts are from MJS Rudwick, Georges Cuvier, fossil bones, and geological catastrophes: new translations & interpretations of the primary texts, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997).

4  I am indebted to Robert E. Stebbins, The Comparative Reception of Darwinism, ed. by Thomas F. Glick, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974), p. 118, for the information about the impact of Darwinism in France.

5  Information from Alberto Cento, Commentaire de Bouvard et Pecuchet, (Napoli, Ligori, 1973), p. 9.

6  The texts are: Barruel, (G.) Traité élémentaire de géologie, minéralogie et géognésie…avec une préface de M. Gasc. Paris, Levrault, 1835; Caumont, (Arcisse de). Mémoires géologiques sur quelques terrains de la Normandie occidentale, Mémoires de la Société Linnéenne de Normandie, t. II,, 1825; Huzar, (Eugène) La fin du monde par la science, Paris, Dentu, 1855; Lambert, (Abbé Edmond), Nouveau guide du géologue, géologie générale de la France, suivie d’un appendice sur la géologie des principales contrées de l’Europe, Paris, F. Savy, 1873; Omalius, D’Halloy (J. Baptiste), Eléments de géologie, Paris, Levrault, 1831.

7  Mary Orr, Flaubert's Tentation: remapping nineteenth-century French histories of religion and science, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008).

8  Elissa Marder, Dead Time: Temporal disorders in the wake of modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert), (Stanford, Calif., Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 6.

9  Benjamin Bart, Flaubert, (Syracuse, N.Y, Syracuse University Press, [1967]), p. 292.

10  Marder, Dead Time, op. cit., p. 122.

11  Cuvier, Essay on the Theory of the Earth (Edinburgh, Blackwood, 1815), p. 24.

12  Rosemary Lloyd, Madame Bovary, (London, Unwin Hyman, 1990), p. 132.

13  Dominick LaCapra, Madame Bovary on Trial, (Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 186.

14  Braddon mentions Darwin in many of her later novels such as The Golden Calf (1883), The Fatal Three (1888), One Thing Needful (1886), The Day will Come (1889), The Conflict (1903), The Rose of Life (1905) to give but a few examples.

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Electronic reference

Ruth Morris, « Madame Bovary and Catastrophism: Revolving narratives », Flaubert [Online], 5 | 2011, Online since 12 July 2011, connection on 26 October 2020. URL :

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About the author

Ruth Morris

University of Aberdeen, Scotland

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