Show Less
Restricted access

Balzac and Violence

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


Owen Heathcote

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?
Contents: Mourning Becomes Prometheus: History, Space, Gender and Death in Balzac – Violence and Form in the Balzac Novel: Les Paysans, Illusions perdues and Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes – The Origins of Violence in Balzac: From Sténie to El Verdugo – Balzac ‘le fataliste’? Historical Materialism and Material Violence in Sur Catherine de Médicis and Le Réquisitionnaire – Post-Revolutionary Violence: Crossroads of Terror in Une ténébreuse affaire – The Violence of Touraine: Le Lys dans la vallée – Out in the City: History, Violence and Gender in L’Envers de l’histoire contemporaine – Violating Sexual Difference: La Fausse maîtresse, Autre étude de femme, and La Fille aux yeux d’or – Violent Sexualities? The Representation of Prostitution and the Prostitution of Representation – Violence, Politics and Death: Z. Marcas – The Poetics of Death in Albert Savarus – Mourning Becomes Prometheus: Homeopathy, Repair - and Unrest.