20 August 2003
The Misfit of the Family
Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality
By Michael Lucey
In more than 90 novels and novellas, Honoré de Balzac used his writing to analyze the history and society of early-19th-century France. Marxist critics have demonstrated the role of class in his writing; others have noted his observations on gender. In The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality, Michael Lucey, professor of French and comparative literature, analyzes Balzac’s explicit and sophisticated representation of complex, and changing, forms of sexuality.
Describing his work on Balzac in Framing the Questions, a campus online magazine of the humanities, Lucey says: “If you take a novelist like Dickens, there are certain characters … who can be understood to have non-normative sexualities. But the representation there takes a lot of uncoding. Balzac had no problem making the code much more transparent.”
Lucey, who directs the campus’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture, began the work on Balzac represented in this book more than a decade ago, while a Junior Faculty Fellow at the Townsend Center for the Humanities.
Writes Ross Chambers, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan: “Michael Lucey’s Balzac is not the Balzac they taught you in college, or even in graduate school. His resourceful readings introduce us to a social universe in which oddballs and misfits are entirely germane because queerness is its norm.”
Duke University Press