This article undertakes a historical analysis of Édouard Dujardin’s 1887 novel Les Lauriers sont coupés, best known for its infl uence on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Les Lauriers has been interpreted by literary scholars as a piece of experimental prose symptomatic of several intersecting aesthetic trends of the French fi n de siècle, most notably symbolism, Wagnerism, and modernism. However, I approach the novel through a microhistorical lens, using Dujardin’s letters, contemporary press materials, and maps of post-Haussmann Paristo focus on the author’s biography as well as the political, cultural, and social contexts of the mid-1880s. From this perspective Les Lauriers serves as an insightful barometer of the experiential complexities of a city and a society in the throes of transitioning to modernity. Working at the intersection of literary analysis and cultural history, this article provides compelling evidence of the mutually revelatory ties that bind a work of art and its context.
Kelly Maynard is Associate Professor of modern European history at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Her research explores the political, social, intellectual, and cultural impact of aesthetic experience as well as Franco-German relations at the fin de siècle.