Extracts from Émile Zola, "The Experimental Novel." Translated from the French by Belle M. Sherman. New York: Haskell House, 1964.



"In my literary essays I have often spoken of the application of the experimental method to the novel and to drama. The return to nature, the naturalistic evolution which marks the century, drives little by little all the manifestation of human intelligence into the same scientific path" (1).
 

"I really only need to adapt, for the experimental method has been established . . . by Claude Bernard in [his essay, Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine]" (1)
 

"Claude Bernard . . . explains the differences which exist between the sciences of observation and the sciences of experiment. He concludes, finally, that experiment is but provoked observation. All experimental reasoning is based on doubt, for the experimentalist should have no preconceived idea, in the face of nature, and should always retain his liberty of thought. He simply accepts the phenomena which are produced, when they are produced" (2-3).
 

"The essence of the higher organism is set in an internal and perfected environment [inherited characteristics] endowed with constant physico-chemical properties exactly like the external environment; hence there is an absolute determinism in the existing conditions of natural phenomena . . . . He calls determinism the cause which determines the appearance of these phenomena. This nearest cause, as it is called, is nothing more than the physical and material condition of the existence or manifestation of the phenomena. The end of all experimental method . . . consists in finding the relations which unite a phenomenon of any kind to its nearest cause, or, in other words, in determining the conditions necessary for the manifestation of this phenomenon"(3).
 

"The novelist is equally an observer and an experimentalist. The observer in him gives the facts as he has observed them . . . . then the experimentalist appears and introduces an experiment, that is to say, sets his characters going in a certain story so as to show that the succession of facts will be such as the requirements of the determinism of the phenomena under examination call for" (8). "In fact, the whole operation consists in taking facts in nature, then in studying the mechanism of these facts, acting upon them, by the modification of the circumstances and surroundings, without deviating from the laws of nature. Finally, you possess knowledge of the man, scientific knowledge of him, in his individual and social relations" (9).
 

"Some observed fact makes the idea start up of trying an experiment, of writing a novel, in order to attain to a complete knowledge of the truth" (12).
 

"I consider that the question of heredity has a great influence in the intellectual and passionate manifestations of man. I also attach considerable importance to the surroundings" (19). "Man is not alone; he lives in society, in a social condition; and consequently, for us novelists, this social condition unceasingly modifies the phenomena. Indeed our great study is just there, in the reciprocal effect of society on the individual and the individual on society" (20).
 

"This is what constitutes the experimental novel: to possess a knowledge of the mechanism of the phenomena inherent in man, to show the machinery of his intellectual and sensory manifestations, under the influences of heredity and environment, such as physiology shall give them to us, and then finally to exhibit man living in social conditions produced by himself, which he modifies daily, and in the heart of which he himself experiences a continual transformation" (20-21).
 

"We shall construct a practical sociology, and our work will be a help to political and economical sciences. . . . To be the master of good and evil, to regulate life, to regulate society, to solve in time all the problems of socialism, above all, to give justice a solid foundation by solving through experiment the questions of criminality--is not this being the most useful and the most moral workers in the human workshop?" (26)
 

"Naturalism is . . . the intellectual movement of the century" (43). It "is not a school . . . [;] it consists simply in the application of the experimental method to the study of nature and of man" (44).