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Genius in FranceAn Idea and Its Uses$
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Ann Jefferson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691160658

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691160658.001.0001

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Balzac’s Louis Lambert

Balzac’s Louis Lambert

Genius and the Feminine Mediator

(p.137) Chapter 11 Balzac’s Louis Lambert
Genius in France

Ann Jefferson

Princeton University Press

This chapter studies Balzac's Louis Lambert (1832), in which the character of Lambert is a (possibly) mentally ill genius who retreats into a world to which only his erstwhile fiancée has access. Through his writings Balzac attempts to examine and portray a certain topic on the matter of geniuses: the essential role played by women in their survival. Louis Lambert ends with the destruction of the main character, a male genius who nonetheless exemplifies all Balzac's own ideas about genius, and is also its most complete and elaborate theorist. Once again, fiction's interest in its failure may reveal more about genius than success. And that failure is also accompanied—still with considerable ambiguity—by the female presence that Balzac argued also deserved recognition as the essential helpmeet of genius.

Keywords:   Honoré de Balzac, Louis Lambert, feminine mediator, genius, women, women

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