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

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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

Extract

Preface Creative idealism underlies the Romantic precept concerning the origin of the artwork. This precept states that the source of the artwork is in the self of the artist. In A la recherche du temps perdu, a complex work of philosophical fiction, Marcel Proust tested the basis for this claim. He did so in the face of early twentieth-century skepticism of the precept’s validity and relevance. And he did so in light of then contemporary understanding of the workings of the mind offered by psychology and neurology. Romantic suppositions concerning individuality, human potentiality, and the artist were based on perceptions of how feelings develop in human beings and how they are expressed in the work of the artist. These suppositions answered questions for the Romantics as to what art is and who is the artist. Dovetailing with individualism’s intellectual liberation of the individual in the early nine- teenth century, the result was the joint celebration of spiritual independence, the uniqueness of the artist, and emotive qualities of the self. Feeling, sensibility, and genius became catchwords of the era in which the solipsism of Chateau- briand’s character René was a model for the young who sought to emulate him. But like Icarus, who soared on false wings and crashed, this emphasis on the artist, the individual, and the self eventually collapsed. Ennui, alienation, and anomie—the depressive counterparts to individualism’s empowerment and to Romantic ecstasy—surfaced in the aftermath. Realist views of life were hard. As we will see in chapter...

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