chapter  Chapter 11
16 Pages

The Novelization of the Dreyfus Affair: Femininity and Sensation in Fin-de-Siècle France 1

WithChristopher E. Forth

For French men and women of the 1890s, few political scandals were more sensational than the Dreyfus Affair. The controversy revolved around Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer who in 1894 had been found guilty of selling military secrets to the Germans and was exiled for life on a penal colony in the South Pacific. Considered as a public sensation, one might say the entire Dreyfusard campaign was haunted by the novelesque, by the theatrical, and by “lies” in general. This chapter argues that the tendency to depict the Affair as sensational fiction reinscribed the crisis as a contest between truth and lying that, when viewed through the prism of medical discourses, allowed the pro-Dreyfus camp to depict their opponents as sick and effeminate, thus underscoring the pervasive role of gender and sexuality in the Affair. It inquires how the language of truthfulness and a steadfast refusal of myth-making functioned within the polemical literature of the Dreyfusard camp itself.