The Realist Author and Sympathetic Imagination
Honoré de Balzac
Studies In Comparative Literature 28
Legenda: Oxford, May 2013
The nineteenth century realist author was a contradictory figure. He was the focus of literary criticism, but obscured his creative role by insisting on presenting his works as ‘copies’ of reality. He was a celebrity who found himself subservient to publishers and the public, in a newly-industrialised literary marketplace. He was the owner of his work who was divested of his property by imperfect copyright laws, playwrights who adapted his novels for the stage, and sequel-writers. This combination of a conspicuous yet precarious status with a self-effacing attitude was expressed by an image of the author as a plural, Protean subject, possessing the faculty of sympathetic imagination – which the realists incorporated in their works in the form of a series of fictional characters who functioned as ‘doubles’ of the author.
Sotirios Paraschas is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in French at the University of Warwick.