Honoré de Balzac's manipulation of the biblical term charbon ardent in his 1830 articleentitled "Des artistes" and in his 1834 novel La Recherche de l'Absolu exposes his effortsto redefine the artist. The "live coal" marks the moment of poetic inspiration in "Desartistes" and, in La Recherche de l'Absolu, is applied to the transfer of knowledge fromone alchemist to another. The biblical image of the coal, functioning both metaphorically and literally, thus applied to the artist and to the alchemist, echoes the academicdefinition of the artist. The Dictionnaire de l'Académie française included the alchemistin its definition of the term up through the fifth edition (1798), although thisreference is effaced by the sixth edition (1835). Textual analysis of the application of thebiblical image in these two texts demonstrates how Balzac intends to redefine the artistvia the process of creation through decomposition. (RFU)


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pp. 240-254
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