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17th November 2016

Alumna to publish study of Balzac’s love letters

The beautiful cover design, drawn by Ewa Szypula

Ewa Szypula (2001, Modern Languages) will publish a study of love letters written by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac in December 2016.

Balzac’s Love Letters: Correspondence and the Literary Imagination is a highly original study in which Dr Szypula reappraises the intriguing correspondence between the French novelist and his literary lover, the Polish countess Evelina Hanska. Whereas critics have used this correspondence primarily as source material for biographical and critical studies, this volume approaches the letters as a literary text in their own right. Vacillating between reality and fiction, Balzac essentially created his ideal correspondent through his letter-writing, attributing to Madame Hanska various qualities which she did not necessarily possess.

In a series of close readings, Dr Szypula explores the origins of this correspondence, analysing its echoes and re-workings of Balzac’s earlier relationships; shows how the letters help Balzac hone his literary skills and offer the chance to reinvent himself through playing different roles; and proposes the letters to Madame Hanska as a prism through which to contextualise Balzac’s subsequent storytelling.

Balzac’s Love Letters brings together correspondence and fiction to reveal crucial new insights into his literary imagination, whilst documenting an idealised romance which might be seen as his last great novel.

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