Balzac’s Influence on W.B. Yeats
‘I was educated upon Balzac and Shakespeare and cannot go beyond them,’ W.B. Yeats. One of the greatest of French novelists, the extraordinarily energetic and larger-than-life Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was the only novelist continuously read and admired by Yeats (1865-1939) across the decades of his own career. What did the Irish artist find in the vast panorama of fiction that constitutes La Comédie Humaine (The Human comedy)? Perhaps it was a mystical insight perceived through the social fabric of Paris in the early decades of the nineteenth century? “Balzac, the greatest creator of living creatures who ever existed, looked into the face of the mystery of creation and plumbed it in its depths.” (Albert Thibaudet). Understand and enjoy the formative French influence on the imagination of the great W.B. Yeats by reading Balzac’s exuberant novel The Wild Ass’s Skin (1831), the first volume in the massive achievement that is La Comédie humaine.
4 Sessions: Mondays 8:00-9:30 p.m. January 25 – February 15; 1/25; 2/1; 2/8 & 2/15
Course Text: Honoré de Balzac The Wild Ass’s Skin – Oxford World’s Classics. New translation by Helen Constantine (2012).
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