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Volume 86 (2017)

Le savon et la propreté dans la littérature du XIXe siècle

July 22, 2019


This article seeks to understand the representations of soap as an object in 19th-century French realist and naturalist literature through the newly acquired hygienic concepts of cleanliness. At the crossroads between medicine and literature, soap is contextualised as an object firmly anchored in the triviality of everyday life: the ritual of the toilette, the cleaning of the body, and more particularly here, the female body. Looking at the character’s hygienic practices and representations of hygiene precepts in literature is to study the details which become, as such, the signs of intimacy and to uncover a hidden history. Drawing from material culture, it has been possible to highlight how the texts can both be the echo chambers of the medical discourse on hygiene while at the same time exceed and reflect a social and literary reality.