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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

French & Francophone Studies

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis focuses on the problematic nature of art valuation, more specifically concerning the ideas of use-value and exchange-value in Honoré de Balzac’s Le Cousin Pons and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Written in nineteenth-century France, Balzac’s novel paints a bleak portrait of what he believes to be a morally corrupt society obsessed with the lesser things in life such as money and status rather than what is truly important: culture and art. In her novel, which bears a striking resemblance to Balzac’s, Tartt presents her perception of present-day United States, also plagued with moral corruption and disregard for the cultural significance of art, but ultimately attempts to convey the message that art will prevail and transcend not only time but human weakness as well.

This analysis will attempt to trace the evolution of the value of the collections of art in these two novels. Through the examination of the themes of legitimacy, surrogacy and betrayal, I will analyze the paradoxes of value of both art and family structure.


First Advisor

Luke Bouvier

Second Advisor

Philippe Baillargeon