Balzac's Love Letters
Correspondence and the Literary Imagination

Ewa Szypula

Research Monographs in French Studies 52

Legenda

19 December 2016  •  126pp

ISBN: 978-1-910887-18-9 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ISBN: 978-1-781883-45-7 (paperback, 30 September 2018)  •  RRP £9.99, $12.50, €12.50

ISBN: 978-1-781883-46-4 (JSTOR ebook)

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In this highly original study, Ewa Szypula reappraises the intriguing correspondence between the French novelist and his literary lover, the Polish countess Evelina Hanska. Whereas critics have used this correspondence primarily as source material for biographical and critical studies, this volume approaches the letters as a literary text in their own right. Vacillating between reality and fiction, Balzac essentially created his ideal correspondent through his letter-writing, attributing to Madame Hanska various qualities which she did not necessarily possess.

In a series of close readings, Szypula explores the origins of this correspondence, analyzing its echoes and re-workings of Balzac's earlier relationships; shows how the letters help Balzac hone his literary skills and offer the chance to reinvent himself through playing different roles; and proposes the letters to Evelina as a prism through which to contextualise Balzac's subsequent storytelling.

Balzac's Love Letters brings together correspondence and fiction to reveal crucial new insights into his literary imagination, whilst documenting an idealized romance which might be seen as his last great novel.

Reviews:

  • ‘Balzac the inveterate re-reader forces his own readers into their own, creative, re-readings of his texts. How fortunate, then, that so many of Balzac’s own letters, not least those to Mme Hanska, have been preserved for our own reading and re-reading, and are thus able to give rise to this subtle, sophisticated, original — and eminently readable — new study.’ — Owen Heathcote, H-France 17, November 2017
  • ‘On en saluera en n l’originalité, la nesse d’analyse, et l’attention subtile prêtée à l’écriture de Balzac, à ses tactiques comme à son tact, à sa volonté de maîtrise comme à sa délicatesse.’ — Thomas Conrad, Studi francesi 185, 2018, 335-36
  • ‘Szypula treats the letters as texts in their own right, arguing persuasively that they can be analysed in much the same way as we might read and interpret Balzac’s fiction... As Szypula argues compellingly, the themes of writing and rereading assume special importance in the 1844 novel Modeste Mignon, in which Balzac can be seen to reflect on the limitations of rereading, particularly when a letter-writer is insincere. The study concludes with an Afterword that examines Mme Han ska’s attempts at revising Balzac’s letters following his death, a process that shows — as Szypula does so refreshingly in this volume — that this correspondence has never truly closed, but instead remains intriguingly open to rereading and re-interpretation.’ — Andrew Watts, French Studies 72.4, October 2018, 610-11

Contents:

i-vi
Balzac's Love Letters: Balzac's Love Letters
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vii-viii
Table of Contents
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ix-ix
Acknowledgements
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x-x
Author’s Note
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xi-xii
Preface
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1-14
Introduction
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15-44
Chapter 1 the Blank Page and the Palimpsest
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45-72
Chapter 2 Performance and Play: Balzac’s Letters As Theatre
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73-96
Chapter 3 Balzac Collector, Rereader, and Storyteller
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97-104
Afterword: the Afterlife of the Letters
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105-110
Select Bibliography
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111-114
Index
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Bibliography entry:

Szypula, Ewa, Balzac's Love Letters: Correspondence and the Literary Imagination, Research Monographs in French Studies, 52 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2016)

First footnote reference: 35 Ewa Szypula, Balzac's Love Letters: Correspondence and the Literary Imagination, Research Monographs in French Studies, 52 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2016), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Szypula, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Szypula, Ewa. 2016. Balzac's Love Letters: Correspondence and the Literary Imagination, Research Monographs in French Studies, 52 (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Szypula 2016: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Szypula 2016: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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