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"The Loosest Sketch in Nature...": Balzac, Sterne, et l'esquisse littéraire

Dickson, Polly



Whilst English visual art plays a minor role in La Comédie humaine, the novelist Laurence Sterne, whose influence on Balzac is widely recognized, is the mediator of some of Balzac’s most visual narrative flourishes and reflections. Drawing from criticism on Balzac’s and Sterne’s representations of the visual arts, this essay examine these gestures in dialogue with another Sternean phenomenon: the literary “sketch.” As a prominent form of art in English Romanticism, the sketch shapes Sterne’s pictorial rhetoric in Tristram Shandy and his character portraits, which are frequently characterized by their incompleteness, and by a corresponding call to the reader to participate in their visualization. In an examination of passages from La Peau de chagrin, the essay demonstrates that the rhetoric of the “sketch,” by which narrators playfully distance themselves from the page, also takes its place within Balzac’s repertoire of visual literary effects.


Dickson, P. (2019). "The Loosest Sketch in Nature...": Balzac, Sterne, et l'esquisse littéraire. L'Année Balzacienne, 20(1), 195-209

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jul 15, 2019
Journal L'Année Balzacienne
Print ISSN 0084-6473
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 195-209
Public URL