Realism, the bildungsroman, and the art of self-invention : Stendhal and Balzac

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At the end of Honoré de Balzac’s Le père Goriot (Père Goriot,1835) the novel’s hero, Eugène de Rastignac, stands at the summit of the Père Lachaise cemetery on the outskirts of Paris, gazing at the city that lies below. An ambitious but impoverished nobleman from the provinces, Eugène had arrived in the capital to study law. Instead, over the course of some three hundred pages, he is treated to a very different kind of education, learning about the intricate rules that govern aristocratic salons and witnessing the steady stream of petty intrigues, personal betrayals, and elaborate conspiracies that permeate fashion-able society. In a word, he has learned what it takes to succeed in Paris. And just now, Rastignac has witnessed a particularly sordid episode of Parisian life, the funeral of the novel’s eponymous hero, Jean-Joachim Goriot.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA history of modern French literature : from the sixteenth century to the twentieth century
EditorsChristopher PRENDERGAST
Place of PublicationPrinceton
PublisherPrinceton University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780691157726
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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