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). The final version of Mapping Balzac will let users shift between geographical maps, timelines, and network graphs.

VIEW NEW WEBSITE. See a beta version of the character and genealogy website (en français).


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 and displayed on historical maps via Hypercities. In the future, we will expand this reach to the provinces and beyond.


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). The “map view” lets the researcher view the movement of Balzac’s characters through Paris.

See a beta version of the character and genealogy 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, mariages, courtships, and other kinds of social relationships. Researchers will be able to build their own networks by connecting characters according to their own classifications and building their own networks of characters.


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. Researchers will be able to enter the notable events from their own favorite scenes starting in the summer of 2013.


The first version of Mapping Balzac follows the narrative order of the Comédie Humaine. Later versions will offer other chronologies, including a historical chronology of events, which will reshuffle the events in the database to fit the historical order of events. This reshuffling means that researchers will easily be able to compare the histoire and récit of Balzac’s fiction.


Mapping Balzac is a project of the Humanities + Design Lab (CESTA) at Stanford University.  Melanie Conroy is the project lead.


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


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