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Creative Development in Marcel Proust’s «A la recherche du temps perdu»


Jeffrey Johnson

This book focuses on creative development and empowerment in Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. It demonstrates Proust’s proof of the Romantic notion that art originates in the self of the artist. Approached as a Bildungsroman, the psychological aspects of this development in Marcel, the principal character, are considered in terms of the stimulus/response mechanism in living organisms. It verifies Proust’s argument that time in the body, including all that one experiences unconsciously, is present within us whether it is accessible to memory or not.
Through involuntary memories and inspiration at the end of the novel, Marcel finds the means to write the book he has long wished to write. Inspiration provides a link between Marcel, the novel’s protagonist, and Proust, its author. This volume balances its analysis of Marcel’s creative development and empowerment through inspiration with Proust’s experiences in May 1909, when he realized that the concept of the fourth dimension would serve as the unifying thread for his novel. Modernity is viewed as a crucial influence in the transformation of society that Proust’s novel chronicles. This study posits an allegorical reading of the novel in the relationship of the birth of the modern citizen to the making of an artist in an era of doubt.


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Preface xi Abbreviations xvii Introduction – Un moment décisif 1 Chapter 1 Proustian Idealism 17 A Maxim of Marcel Proust 17 The Maxim Turned Inside Out: A Proustian Riddle 27 Chapter 2 Body and Mind 31 A Partially Opened Window 31 Consciousness 35 Distance 42 The Self as Observer 51 Chapter 3 Identity 61 Identity as a Social Marker 61 Identity and the Nineteenth Century 69 Identity in La Recherche 77 Identity and the Cinematic View of Life 81 Chapter 4 The Making of an Artist 87 Romanticism and the Origin of the Artwork 87 The Speculative Theory of Art 93 The Impediments and the Impulse 96 Lessons from the Masters 107 Marcel/Marcel Proust as Writers 110 Chapter 5 Involuntary Memory and François le Champi 113 The Madeleine, the Paving Stone, and François le Champi 113 1_Proust_FM-Preface.indd 9 2/28/12 11:46 PM x Involuntary Memory 121 François le Champi 128 Chapter 6 The State of Genius 135 Proust as Writer 135 Time 140 The State of Genius: Marcel/Marcel Proust 146 The Efficacy of Language 155 Chapter 7 Proust and the Fourth Dimension 161 Perseverance and the Tension Inhering in a Quest 161 A Gift and Talent 165 The Fourth Dimension 172 Illumination 176 Epilogue The Difficulty of Being a Human Being 183 Notes 189 Bibliography 211 Index 217 1_Proust_FM-Preface.indd 10 2/28/12 11:46 PM

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