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Dream, Creativity, and Madness in Nineteenth-Century France$
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Tony James

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198151883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198151883.001.0001

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‘The Phenomena of Sleep’: Balzac and Nodier

‘The Phenomena of Sleep’: Balzac and Nodier

(p.49) 6 ‘The Phenomena of Sleep’: Balzac and Nodier
Dream, Creativity, and Madness in Nineteenth-Century France

Tony James

Oxford University Press

The word ‘extase’ is linked with ‘phenomena of sleep’ for two other writers who use this phrase: Charles Nodier and Honore de Balzac. In 1831, Nodier published an article entitled ‘De quelques phénomènes du sommeil’; the following year, in Balzac's novel Louis Lambert, the same phrase occurs in connection with an apparently precognitive dream. Though very different from each other, both writers attribute an importance to the link between dreams and madness and creativity. This chapter first explores Nodier's article and then examines briefly two of his fictional works, Smarra and La Fee aux miettes, which explore dreams and madness. Beginning with Louis Lambert, the chapter then shows how Balzac linked madness with what he saw as a relation of substitution, or incompatibility, between artistic creativity and sexuality. Finally, the chapter shows how the idea of sleep being connected with magnetism formed part of the plot in Ursule Mirouët.

Keywords:   Charles Nodier, Honore de Balzac, dream, madness, creativity, magnetism

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