Courses available in French


Le voyage n’est nécessaire qu’aux imaginations courtes.

— Colette

French 126: Senior Seminar — Honoré de Balzac — “To Sell Out or Not to Sell Out”


All by Balzac: Le chef-d’oeuvre inconnu (Flammarion-GF),  Illusions perdues (Gallimard-Folio), La Muse du département (Gallimard-Folio), La maison du chat-qui-pelote (Flammarion-GF).  We will also be reading a few other Balzac short stories that are either included in these volumes (La bourse, Gambara) or will be provided via b-space (L’illustre Gaudissart, Pierre Grassou).

Course Description:

Honoré de Balzac is the author of one of the great novel cycles, La comédie humaine, in which he set out to chronicle the social life of his time (the first half of the nineteenth-century in France).  In doing so, he became one of the most influential novelists of all time.   One of his great interests was the nature of artistic activity, which involved the kinds of ambitions that motivate artists, musicians, and writers to pursue either artistic greatness or celebrity (or, in rare cases, both at the same time). He was also interested in the way business or commerce itself could be pursued artfully.  We will spend the semester reading chronologically through a series of his novels and stories that deal with art, music, writing, and commerce and the kind of conflicts that arise when artists come up against forces of economic necessity and the temptations of fame and wealth.  Along the way, we will learn a bit about nineteenth-century French social history, about questions of literary form, and about the development of realism as an artistic practice. Students in the seminar will also be asked to do a little bit of independent research into Balzac’s life and various aspects of his social world and historical situation.


French 102 or equivalent.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes