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.