The Zola Research Program (in French, Le Programme de recherche sur Zola et le Naturalisme, or more commonly known as Programme Zola) began in 1971 when Henri Mitterand was a visiting professor at the University of Toronto. The three key members at this time were Henri Mitterand (University of Paris VIII), John Walker (French Department, University of Toronto), and Bard Bakker (Glendon College, York University). The goal of the project was to collect, organize and eventually publish letters written by Émile Zola. The project ran from 1975 until 1995, when the final volume in the series was published. The Zola Research Program published over 4000 (previously published and unpublished) letters written by Zola over 10 volumes. The volumes were published by the University of Montreal Press in association with the Edition Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Each letter is accompanied by contextual annotations provided through examinations of letters written to Zola, chronologies and histories detailing the political and social situation in 19th century France, as well as contextual information on events or figures referred to in the letters. The records in the Zola Research Program fonds likewise reflect these different activities-- photocopies of the letters by Zola, letters to Zola and letters by contemporaries are also accompanied by various documents collecting information about the various figures prominent in Zola’s life and the social/political milieu of 19th century France. These supplementary records form the contextual backbone of the correspondence volumes. The first volume was published in 1978, and consecutive volumes wer published approximately 18 months apart.
The Zola Research Program consisted of a joint effort between two teams, one in Paris and the other in Toronto. The Paris team (titled the Centre de Recherches sur Zola et le Naturalisme) was headed by Mitterand (Literary Advisor), and consisted of a variety of members including Colette Becker (Associate Editor), Danielle Coussot and Colette Morin-Laborde. The Toronto team was headed by Bard Bakker (Director and General Editor) and consisted of John Walker (General Secretary), Dorothy Speirs (Research Associate), Dolores Signori (Research Fellow), Owen Morgan, Hélène Issayevitch (Project Archivist), with various graduate students and research assistants throughout the years. Support and funding of the project derived from a variety of sources. The Paris team worked in collaboration with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (who generally supplied funding and publication), the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, the Archives Nationales France and various other public and private institutions. The Toronto team was based out of the Department of French at the University of Toronto, and was largely funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). These two teams actively included Zola’s descendants in the project. The private collections of Zola’s grandsons (Dr. François Émile-Zola and Jean-Claude Le Blond) provided the primary source of letters, which were then expanded upon through intensive searches for more sources. These sources include various other public institutions (such as the Bibliothèque National de Paris and the Pierpont Morgan Library) and private auction houses (such as Hôtel Drouot), as well as individual private collectors. Donor agreements demonstrate the goal of the project as the one-time publication of the letters, and each photocopy contained in the collection is stamped or identified as deriving from its original collection. The Zola Research Program was dissolved after the publication of the final volume in 1995.