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The Representation of Mesmerism in Honoré de Balzac's «La Comédie humaine»

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Melissa Marcus

In 1778, the Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, arrived in Paris to present his new doctrine: animal magnetism, later called mesmerism. His stay in Paris provoked a lasting interest in, and fascination with mesmerism, in particular among various circles of European Romantic writers. This book treats the theme of mesmerism in French writer Balzac's La comédie humaine by demonstrating how Balzac acts as «literary healer,» given his belief in the healing power of mesmerism. It shows how mesmerism, considered a panacea, may become a form of social action. It also examines Balzac's use of mesmerism as cosmological theory to illustrate his belief in one unifying principle for all intellectual and spiritual systems.