Louis Lambert: The Legend of the Thinking Man

Honoré de Balzac's novel Louis Lambert (1832) narrates the legend of the thinking man: a being who has so overdeveloped his intellect that he can only survive in the rarefied atmosphere of abstraction. Cut off from the world of reality – or a conscious frame of reference he is finally overwhelmed by the forces of the unconscious; he withers and dies. A vates, Balzac intuited in Louis Lambert what was to become an acute problem for contemporary society: alienation on a personal and collective scale. The roots of this dichotomy and the over evaluation of the intellect (or the Apollonian side of man) with a concomitant devaluation of instinct (the Dionysian spirit) are to a great extent to be found in Platonic, Christian, and Cartesian thought. (BLK)

Knapp, Bettina L
Volume 1977-1978 Fall-Winter; 6(1-2): 21-35.