According to the announcement, “Vaughn Dance Company’s adaptation of The Awakening traces the heroine’s emotional journey, exploring her relationships with friends, lovers, and the sea. Andrew York’s music brings alive the emotional arc of this story with a score that includes new, unpublished pieces and a live performance by York. Making its mark with sensual shapes and undulating movement, Jennifer Vaughn’s choreography is a palpable embodiment of music that captivates broader audiences and dance aficionados alike.”
But when, for instance, Muhlstein notes parallels in Zola between the representation of landscape and a character’s state of mind, this is not something new to literature: this is the Wordsworthian “egotistical sublime”—or, to take a more local example, the pantheistic trance of Emma Bovary after she has been seduced by Rodolphe in the forest. Contact with painters doubtless suggested new angles of looking and tweaks of lighting. But the book’s subtitle—“How Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth-Century French Novels”—is overreaching. The fact remains that we don’t read Maupassant for the colors, or Zola for the lighting. We read Zola for the psychological truth, the social observation, and the tragic working-out of determinism. Further, the world of Zola—that “Homer of the sewers,” as the duchess so jauntily puts it in À la Recherche —is essentially one of darkness; the world of Impressionism essentially one of light.