Conventional academic criticism of the works of Herman Melville does not include agreement that the author knew or was influenced by the contemporary and popular French writer Honoré de Balzac until very late in his life. However, the nature of the literary and technological networks of the mid-nineteenth century, along with an examination of important texts, suggests that Melville was not only seeking to rival the Frenchman as a competitor in book sales, but through study and guidance from his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, attempting to infuse Balzac’s vision of unity of composition into a new American proto-Realist genre.
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