From Mother to Son: 'l'envers' of the Balzacian Family

In L'Envers de l'histoire contemporaine Balzac sketches out social, economic, and familial structures different from those found in most of La Comédie humaine. A secret society endows the young hero with all that he previously lacked, curiously enough through maternal intervention, rather than through successful entry into the symbolic. This system relies on the voice of the mother rather than on the name of the father, though phallic presence is subsumed by the power of money. Voice, orality, and hearing are eroticized, while sexuality is sublimated into either an idealized impossibility or a distained otherness. Hysteria serves as a metaphor for the literary project, that of revealing the other side of the story. The difference lies in the medium, bodily symptoms or successful tales of suffering and salvation. This version of history creates a proliferation of stories that are not easily deciphered and risks succombing to the hysteric's disease, la plique, an enchevêtrement or entangled confusion of narratives. (KP)
Perry, Katrina
Volume 1994-1995 Fall-Winter; 23(1-2): 96-107