Balzac and Violence

Representing History, Space, Sexuality and Death in La Comédie humaine

by Owen Heathcote (Author)
©2009 Monographs 294 Pages


Violence is one of the main themes in the novels of Honoré de Balzac. Executions, murders, savagery and death accompany the conspiracies and the turbulence that characterise his post-Revolutionary times, from the Terror to the Napoleonic campaigns and then to the upheavals of 1830 and 1848. Despite the importance of violence in Balzac, this is the first book-length study of the topic. The book begins by tracing the links between violence and Balzac’s approach to the novel, not merely in terms of violent content, but, equally importantly, in terms of the form associated with that content. Form and content combine to perpetuate and naturalise violence and suffering. After charting examples of this combination in one of Balzac’s earliest fictions, the book moves on to the links between violence and history (Catherine de Médicis; the Terror), between violence and place (from his native Touraine to sickness in Paris), and between violence and gender/sexuality. It also examines the representation of violence in the form of spoken or written death. Throughout the analysis, the book asks the following question: do Balzac’s novels reinforce or counteract the literary text’s apparent love-affair with violence?


ISBN (Softcover)
Prometheus Touraine Politics and death History
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. 294 pp.

Biographical notes

Owen Heathcote (Author)

The Author: Owen Heathcote is Honorary Visiting Reader in Modern French Studies at the University of Bradford. He researches on the relationship between violence, gender and representation in French literature and film and has published extensively on such authors as Balzac, Cardinal, Dustan, Duras, Guibert, Guyotat and Éric Jourdan. He has edited or co-edited a number of special journal issues and books, including ‘Murdering Marianne? Violence, Gender and Representation in French Literature and Film’, South Central Review (2002-2003) and Negotiating Boundaries: Identities, Sexualities, Diversities (2007).


Title: Balzac and Violence