About Mapping Balzac

The Mapping Balzac project is an online companion to Balzac’s great roman fleuve La Comédie Humaine. Mapping Balzac is a complete repertory of the characters in Balzac’s foundational series of realist novels, the places mentioned and visited, and the notable events within the novels. These references will be linked to full text of the complete Comédie Humaine in the ARTFL-FRANTEXT database. There are several kinds of information in the database: information on characters, places mentioned or visited, events in the novels, and types of relationships (networks).


Mapping Balzac has inventoried all of the references to places in Paris in La Comédie Humaine, relying in part on the work of George Raser (1964) and Jeannine Guichardet (1986). These places have been situated modern maps using Open Street Map. We are also working on maps of all of Balzac’s references to places in France and worldwide.


Mapping Balzac contains a list of all characters in the series of novels, derived from Cerfberr and Christophe’s Repertory of the Comédie Humaine (1901). Each character has a short description and is classified by various traits (class, gender, profession, nationality, physical traits). See a beta version of the character and family website (en français).


The database contains a full genealogy of all of the major characters in the Comédie Humaine, based on Charles Lecour’s pioneering work (1966). Mapping Balzac will also depict financial relationships, meetings, marriages, courtships, and other kinds of social relationships.


We have begun the difficult work of cataloguing important events in the Comédie. To start, we are tracing the trajectories of protagonists across the city of Paris. Representing events is the ultimate goal of the project, since events are occurrences between characters in space and time, as they are recounted by narrators.


The first version of Mapping Balzac follows the narrative order of the Comédie Humaine.


Melanie Conroy, assistant professor of French at the University of Memphis, is the current project lead. Mapping Balzac was initially developed in collaboration with the Humanities + Design Lab at Stanford University.

For more information or to collaborate on the project, email Melanie Conroy (mrconroy at memphis.edu).

2 thoughts on “About Mapping Balzac

  1. Andrea W Gargiulo

    Hello. I’m leading a course at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement on Lost Illusions. Is it possible to see your work online, particularly the characters!
    Andrea W Gargiulo in Boston

  2. David Haynes

    Could you please advise me how I might become a member of your facility? I am a retired staff member of The University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill. And a old time lover of French Literature.
    I am over half way through the Saintsbury Edition of Complete works of Balzac which I inherited from my family . And would find a glossary of Characters (in English) from The Comedie Humaine extremely valuable
    Thank you
    David Haynes


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