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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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Chapter 2 Body and Mind 31


Chapter 2 Body and Mind A Partially Opened Window No one is born wise the painter Elstir tells a youthful Marcel in A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur. No one is born an artist, either. Artists develop. They do so individu- ally and at their own pace. In telling the story of Marcel’s creative development, an older Marcel, not yet the artist he will become, introduces readers to a youth filled with idealized desires. Among these is Marcel’s desire to become a writer. At the beginning of the novel however, Marcel knows next to nothing about what it takes to be a writer in terms of thought and the explorations of experience within oneself required of a writer to produce work of merit. Proust’s interest in art in La Recherche centers on the importance of percep- tive acuity to the inception of great art. As noted earlier, through approach, con- tact, and conduction to consciousness of deeply interior truths of experience, something of the essential quality of being can be communicated through an artist’s work. This is true of the greatest artists’ achievements. Consistent with the view of art-making put forward in the novel, and, again, as already noted, no mention is made of the technical expertise needed to produce art. In Proust’s representation of artists, skill in handling materials is considered a poor substi- tute for the intuitive insights perceptive acuity makes possible. These insights enable art to carry meanings that transcend craft. A lack of perceptive acuity...

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