Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


World Languages and Literatures


Danielle Trudeau


Balzac, Chanterie, Ferragus, Godefroid, Secret Societies, Vautrin

Subject Areas

Literature; European studies


Balzac employs a kaleidoscopic form of novel writing by introducing his characters in a mosaic fashion, allowing the reader to come to know them as in real life through various encounters. This provides numerous glimpses into the development of secret societies, an important theme in Romanticism. This thesis showed that the novel as a genre is itself a secret society, in which Balzac uses the secrets in the novel not only to drive the plot, but also to express himself in a veiled fashion to the reader who looks for a more intimate connection with the Balzacian text.

This thesis first explored the metamorphosis of Balzac's The Human Comedy. Then textual analysis showed that throughout the structure of Balzac's literary edifice there is a deep consistency that also runs through his political life. In the third chapter, based on research of the Balzacian diegesis and later scholarly criticism, I looked past the veil created by Balzac to make several new discoveries about the secret societies depicted in The Human Comedy. Finally, since literature awakens in the reader a commitment to utopia, this thesis is ended by establishing a connection between the secret societies and the utopia that they represent.