Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (368.64 kB)

Honoré de Balzac’s Treatise on Modern Stimulants: An Annotated Translation

Download (368.64 kB)
posted on 2021-12-09, 07:25 authored by Kassy Hayden

Honoré de Balzac is most often celebrated for his realist fiction, but what is less well-known is that he also had philosophical aspirations, and published numerous analytical works which have largely been overlooked by French-English translators. One such work, Traité des excitants modernes, traces the societal impact of five commonly-used stimulants: tea, sugar, coffee, alcohol, tobacco. It was first published in 1839 as an appendix to the cornerstone gastronomic work, Physiologie du goût, by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  The translation, “Treatise on Modern Stimulants,” will give readers a rare insight into life in Balzac’s Paris in the 1800s, a city which was undergoing a revolution culturally, politically and within the scientific fields. Balzac’s treatise is delicately balanced between science and satire, and includes anecdotes about the author overindulging in coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. Further, it sketches out Balzac’s beliefs about the impact of diet on reproduction, and he cites stimulants as one of the causes of degeneration and decline in France. The accompanying commentary examines the context of the work, and presents new ideas about the way in which the essay was written and why. Importantly, it also discusses the challenges of translating a historical work and explores whether translation can bridge the divide between generations, disciplines and cultures.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Literary Translation Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Anderson, Jean