This essay considers the ways in which Honoré de Balzac and George Sand, an influential pair of “public writers” who were committed to diametrically opposing sociopolitical discourses, constructed aspects of their authorial identities and indeed the social import of their oeuvres in a self-conscious exchange with, and about, one another. In letters, novels, memoirs, and paratexts from their first encounter in the early 1830s to the end of their careers, Balzac and Sand portrayed, parodied, quoted, misquoted, alluded to, wrote, and rewrote each other in ways that their contemporary readers would doubtless have recognized. In considering some of these various invocations in terms of a larger dialogue between this pair of influential authors, surprising intersections emerge that complicate our current conceptions of the relationship between Balzac’s and Sand’s works. Reflecting on the dialogical generation of meaning, I trace the ways in which reading Balzac and Sand together reveals a complex and continuing conversation between the two authors about similarity, difference, and the dialectical nature of identity. This ongoing intertextual exchange, I argue, helps us see how their literary, social, and political positions as “public writers” were to some extent dependent on constructions of each other.

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