Melville's Intervisionary Network

BookMelville's Intervisionary Network

Melville's Intervisionary Network

Balzac, Hawthorne, and Realism in the American Renaissance

Clemson University Press


October 18th, 2016



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The romances of Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, Sailor, are usually examined from some setting almost exclusively American. European or other planetary contexts are subordinated to local considerations. But while this isolated approach plays well in an arena constructed on American exclusiveness, it does not express the reality of the literary processes swirling around Melville in the middle of the nineteenth century. A series of expanding literary and technological networks was active that made his writing part of a global complex. Honoré de Balzac, popular French writer and creator of realism in the novel, was also in the web of these same networks, both preceding and at the height of Melville’s creativity. Because they engaged in similar intentions, there developed an almost inevitable attraction that brought their works together. Until recently, however, Balzac has not been recognized as a significant influence on Melville during his most creative period. Over the last decade, scholars began to explore literary networks by new methodologies, and the criticism developed out of these strategies pertains usually to modernist, postcolonial, contemporary situations. Remarkably, however, the intertextuality of Melville with Balzac is quite exactly a casebook study in transcultural comparativism. Looking at Melville’s innovative environment reveals meaningful results where the networks take on significant roles equivalent to what have been traditionally classed as genetic contacts. Intervisionary Network explores a range of these connections and reveals that Melville was dependent on Balzac and his universal vision in much of his prose writing.


‘The traditional narrative is that Shakespeare’s works inspired innovations in Melville’s writing style, yielding Moby-Dick (1851). Haydock rescues an orphan strand, arguing that Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine (1842–55) inspired Melville’s conception of plot, characterization, and psychological analysis.’
American Literature

Author Information

John Haydock is Associate Professor of English, Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville GA USA.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Debt to Honoré de Balzac9
Chapter One: Networked Melville17
Chapter Two: International Balzac47
Chapter Three: M. de l’Aubépine65
Chapter Four: Hawthorne’s Secret?81
Chapter Five: Transvisionary Translating115
Chapter Six: Balzac’s Types at Sea153
Chapter Seven: Physiology of Thinking181
Chapter Eight: American Comédie213
Chapter Nine: Toward the Bouddha chrétien241
Chapter Ten: The Clue in the Labyrinth267