The magical orientalism that saturates Honoré de Balzac’s Peau de chagrin (1831), seemingly at odds with its author’s reputation for sociological realism, indicts the capitalist ambitions ushered in by France’s bourgeois July Monarchy. Balzac’s ironic orientalization of Paris demystifies the bildungsroman’s typically self-made protagonist by foregrounding how the probabilistic attribution of causal force to the human will resembles predestinarian belief in divine determination. The Eastern wish-fulfilling skin of Balzac’s title at once hyperbolizes the liberal fantasy of world-changing power and skeptically suggests that all aspirations to agency entail a leap of faith.

You do not currently have access to this content.