L’Observation, la mémoire et le prix de l’expérience dans La Comédie humaine

This essay focuses on the links between observation and memory in Balzac’s novels. What is at stake in these connections is the role of experience and its cost. From the end of the eighteenth century, writers like Louis-Sébastien Mercier or Étienne de Jouy and motifs like the representations of flânerie suggested that the whole human experience can be acquired safely by a single activity: empirical observation. Balzac takes up this idea and extends the notion of observation so as to encompass some manifestations of memory. Nevertheless he shows that observation is not as objective as other writers suggest. On the contrary, in La Comédie humaine, observation seems to be based on suffering and frustration. (In French)

Lucien Derainne
Volume 47.1–2