The following is a meta-commentary of the article, “Marriage and the City: Fatal Displacement in La Maison du chat-qui-pelote,” co-authored by Dr. Anca Mitroi Sprenger and myself, Laurel Cummins. The article will soon be submitted for publication, and this commentary contains an annotated bibliography of all our primary and secondary sources as well as an account of the origin of the argument and the process of writing the article. Our article is based upon an analysis of La Maison du chat-qui-pelote, a story authored by Honoré de Balzac within his seminal collection La Comédie humaine. In the article, we analyze the theme of fatal displacement in La Maison du chat-qui-pelote as an allegory of the repressions of nineteenth-century modernity. The theme is presented through the tumultuous marriage of the bourgeois protagonist, Augustine Guillaume, to the aristocrat artist, Théodore de Sommervieux, and through Augustine's literal movement within the city of Paris that ensues after their marriage (from her home, the Chat-qui-Pelote, to her husband's home, her attempted return to the Chat-qui-Pelote, and her visit to her husband's mistress). We demonstrate that these displacements are not only the source of Augustine's premature death but are emblematic of the perishing past in a post-revolutionary, modern Paris. Our development of this conclusion comes through a close analysis of the principal text itself as well as of the literal and figurative displacements that occur throughout to the main character, Augustine. In studying these displacements, we consider not only the social structures and institutions at the time of the novel but the detailed images of the past that anchor Augustine in traditions that do not let her transition into modernity. We examine the portrayal of marriage in La Maison du chat-qui-pelote as it coincides to the ideals of marriage in pre and post-Revolution periods. We likewise consider the various geographical areas (as pinpointed by specific roads provided by the author) as a way of understanding the historical background and the effect of displacement from various areas of Paris to others. The title of the story (which references the sign outside of the protagonist's house), the Chat-qui-Pelote, also offers rich symbolism that, when deciphered, substantiates our claim that this story goes far beyond an unfortunate marriage caused by class disparity. Instead, Augustine's trajectory in the story, she being the human embodiment and relic of ancient French traditions, alludes to a foundational inability for past ways of French life to survive in modernity.
College and Department
Humanities; French and Italian
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Cummins, Laurel, "Marriage and the City: Fatal Displacement in La Maison du chat-qui-pelote" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 4408.
Honoré de Balzac, Displacement, Marriage, La Maison du chat-qui-pelote, At the Sign of The Cat and Racket, Movement, Modernity, La Comédie humaine, Paris