In the decades following the publication of Emile Zola's novel Nana (1880), “Nana figures” resembling Zola's heroine appeared in fiction around the world. The history of the Nana figure contradicts current models for the study of world literature, based on the diffusion of forms unchanged by their movement. The protagonists of the Japanese writer Kosugi Tengai's New Year's Finery and the American Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie (both 1900) show Zola's character reduced to a cluster of minimal qualities: performance, mobility, and contagion. Paradoxically, flattening the Nana figure makes her more dynamic, able to address social questions absent from Nana. The history of the Nana figure suggests that a focus on transformation through movement offers new approaches to the history of naturalism, and by extension realism, on a world scale.
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Christopher L. Hill; Nana in the World: Novel, Gender, and Transnational Form. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March 2011; 72 (1): 75–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2010-032
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