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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 7 Proust and the Fourth Dimension 161


Chapter 7 Proust and the Fourth Dimension Perseverance and the Tension Inhering in a Quest Perseverance is a moral quality of character. Arthur I. Miller mentions it in writ- ing of the experiences of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso saying that “under the most severe conditions perseverance is a hallmark of genius.1 Under the guise of Fortitude perseverance is one of the Virtues Giotto depicted in the Arena Chapel. Like all moral qualities, perseverance is identified by those who see us in action. One must know a person or have knowledge of how an indi- vidual deals or has dealt with what has confronted her or him in life to recognize perseverance and make a judgment of character. This is, in fact, how Giotto presents these qualities at Padua. His Virtues and Vices in grisaille appear to us as people we might know. Not only do we see each of them as they are depicted in the frescoes, we also see many of them surrounded with details that reveal the larger results of the kind of habitual behavior for which they are emblematic. Thus in giving us an idea of their past we ourselves are able to corroborate the truth in Giotto’s assertions of virtue or vice in their characters. By the same token, in attributing a moral quality to someone the designee can become a per- sonification of it. One only has to think of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge (avarice), or of Florence Nightingale (mercy), or of Abraham Lincoln (honesty)...

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