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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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Chapter 6 The State of Genius 135

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Chapter 6 The State of Genius Proust as Writer Proust was not considered much of a writer prior to the publication of Du côté de chez Swann in 1913. Though he was appreciated as a brilliant conversationalist and a mesmerizing monologist by his friends, he was regarded by many more people who knew him, or knew of him, as a fashionable aesthete who dabbled in the arts. And while his Ruskin translations were respected, the balance of his literary output was not considered out of the ordinary; articles and stories were mostly applauded by his social acquaintances. Furthermore, the notice taken of his penchant for gravitating to hostesses with the grandest social positions, whose salons were the preeminent ones of the day, classified him a social climb- er, a label which invariably colors people’s perceptions of whatever else it is one does. André Gide, at the time of his rejection of Du côté de chez Swann on behalf of the Nouvelle Revue Française, in December, 1912, was conscious of this reputa- tion when he referred to Proust as “a snob, a literary amateur, the worst possible thing for our magazine.”1 Gide’s criticism was animated by disdain for whatever he may have seen or read of Proust’s articles published in Le Figaro over the preceding several years and any lingering recollection he may have had of Les Plaisirs et les jours, published in 1896. Yet little over a year later, in January, 1914, after Du côt...

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