One of the founders of literary realism and the serial novel, Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) was a prolific writer who produced more than a hundred novels, plays and short stories during his career. With its dramatic plots and memorable characters, Balzac's fiction has enthralled generations of readers. 'La Comedie humaine', the vast collection of works in which he strove to document every aspect of nineteenth-century French society, has influenced writers from Flaubert, Zola and Proust to Dostoevsky and Oscar Wilde. This Companion provides a critical reappraisal of Balzac, combining studies of his major novels with guidance on the key narrative and thematic features of his writing. Twelve chapters by world-leading specialists encompass a wide spectrum of topics such as the representation of history, philosophy and religion, the plight of the struggling artist, gender and sexuality, and Balzac's depiction of the creative process itself.
Owen Heathcote is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Modern French Studies at the University of Bradford. He researches the relation between violence, gender, sexuality and representation in French literature from the nineteenth century to the present. His many publications include Balzac and Violence: Representing History, Space, Sexuality and Death in 'La Comedie humaine' (2009) and From Bad Boys to New Men? Masculinity, Sexuality and Violence in the Work of Eric Jourdan (2014). Andrew Watts is Senior Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on the representation of provincial life in 'La Comedie humaine' and, more recently, on the adaptation of nineteenth-century French novels in different artistic media. He is the author of Preserving the Provinces: Small Town and Countryside in the Work of Honore de Balzac (2007) and the co-author (with Kate Griffiths) of Adapting Nineteenth-Century France: Literature in Film, Theatre, Television, Radio and Print (2013). He has also co-edited (with Michelle Cheyne) a critical edition of Balzac's Le Negre (2014).