Love and Revolution: Through the Lens of the Novelist's Eye
F 2017

The novelists Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) and Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) incisively observed 19th Century French society as it underwent profound economic, social, and political change.  In this SDG, we will read two novels, Balzac's Père Goriot (1834) and Flaubert's Sentimental Education (1869), that, examined together, will give us a glimpse of the tumultuous decades following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and leading up to the revolution of 1848.  Père Goriot, which deals in part with a father's Lear-like devotion to his daughters, became the first novel in Balzac's great series of novels studying French society:  La Comédie Humaine.  Flaubert's Sentimental Education, which traces the amorous and social ambitions of its protagonist, Frédéric Moreau, during a period of revolutionary change, has been celebrated for its "daguerreotype glimpse" of Paris in the mid-19th Century (Geoffrey Wall).  In both novels, the authors examine their protagonists' struggles to realize their aspirations in a bewildering new urban landscape.