Jean-Michel Gouvard: Le Nautilus en bouteille. Une lecture de Jules Verne à la lumière de Walter Benjamin
Jules Verne’s work is often presented as a pleasant set of adventure novels, with a travel-guide aspect and a more or less scientific background. But this lecture offers another approach to Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages, in light of some Walter Benjamin’s proposals. Jules Verne was a middle-class writer, fed with common bourgeois ideology, and his novels reflect the way the French society he was living in “dreamt its future”, to paraphrase Benjamin’s words, especially in Verne’s never-ending dialog about prospective science, or his numerous descriptions of landscapes and machineries. In brilliant stories, the writer echoes the anxiety of a society shared between the attractive promises of science, progress and industry, and an inextinguishable fear that the promise land might collapse in a final apocalypse. It is the coexistence of these two contradictory tendencies that defines Jules Verne’s “modernity”.