Sur les traces de Balzac: L'Excès dans les ...

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Title Sur les traces de Balzac: L'Exc?s dans les nouvelles philosophiques [microforme]
Author(s) Scott Lee
Date 2000
Publisher University of Toronto, 1997
Place published Ottawa : National Library of Canada = Biblioth?que nationale du Canada, [2000]
Abstract Balzac has long been associated with excess, both personal and literary, whether it be his abundant literary output, his effort to depict all aspects of nineteenth-century French society, his commercial ambitions which inevitably ended in failure, or the minute descriptions which characterize his novels in particular. Balzac's short stories have received considerably less critical scrutiny, and yet their very economy serves to highlight a certain mechanism of excess all the more clearly. The short stories of the 'Etudes philosopbiques ' seem to be an especially fertile corpus for examining the notion of excess, given that they portray for the most part protagonists whose obsessive desire causes them to go to excessive lengths to bring it to realization, an excess which inevitably takes the form of an appropriation of the other, an imposition of the subject's will on another character. This first excessive 'moment' or phase can also be conceived in linguistic terms, as an attempt by the subject to impose hisdesire (a signified) on a form (or signifier) which, as 'other', is resistant to this reduction of its polysemy. The figurative language of Balzac's texts thus show traces of this violent impact or collision between signifier and signified, traces which take the form of an allegory telling the story of the impossibility of the adequation between subject and other, meaning and form, realization and enunciation. This second excessive moment would thus have a metareferential function. And yet, despite the inexorable failure of the protagonists' respective quests, Balzac's texts steadfastly resist simplistic nihilit readings, in that they consistently propose a mediating figure capable of 'reading' the other, respecting the latter's alterity, the primordial difference between form and meaning. In this sense, it is possible to locate in the figurative dimension of these texts an ethical component.

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