Born on May 20, 1799, Honore de Balzac is considered one of the greatest French writers of all time. Balzac studied in Paris and worked as a law clerk while pursuing an unsuccessful career as an author. He soon accumulated enormous debts that haunted him most of his life. A prolific writer, Balzac would often write for 14 to-16 hours at a time. His writing is marked by realistic portrayals of ordinary, but exaggerated characters and intricate detail. In 1834, Balzac began organizing his works into a collection called The Human Comedy, an attempt to group his novels to present a complete social history of France. Characters in this project reappeared throughout various volumes, which ultimately consisted of approximately 90 works. Some of his works include Cesar Birotteau, Le Cousin Pons, Seraphita, and Le Cousine Bette. Balzac wed his lifelong love, Eveline Hanska in March 1850 although he was gravely ill at the time. Balzac died in August of that year.
Richard Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 13, 1929. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1951 and studied at the Sorbonne as a Fellow of the French Government in 1952-1953. He briefly worked as a lexicographer, but soon turned his attention to poetry and poetic criticism. His works include Trappings: New Poems; Like Most Revelations: New Poems; Selected Poems; No Traveler; Findings; Alone with America; and Quantities. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1969 for Untitled Subjects. He is also a translator and published more than 150 translations from the French. He received the PEN Translation Prize in 1976 for his translation of E. M. Cioran's A Short History of Decay and the American Book Award for his 1983 translation of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. In 1982, he was named a Chevalier of L'Ordre National du Mï¿½rite by the government of France. He teaches in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.
Art critic and philosopher Arthur C. Danto was born in 1924. He received a B.A. from Wayne State University in 1948 and a M.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, in 1949 and 1952, respectively. He began teaching at Columbia University in 1951 and has been a professor since 1966. He has received many fellowships and grants including two Guggenheims, ACLS, and Fulbright, and has served as Vice-President and President of the American Philosophical Association, as well as President of the American Society for Aesthetics. His book Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present, a collection of art criticism, won the 1990 National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism. He is also the art critic for The Nation and an editor for the Journal of Philosophy.