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The Concept of the Soul in Marcel Proust

Homophilia, Misogyny, and the Time-Memory Correlative


Bette H. Lustig

The concept of the soul in Platonic, Ciceronian, and Talmudic thought segues into the Celtic tradition, Thomas Aquinas, and Maeterlinck and threads its way through the tapestry of Proust’s narrative and his principal characters. Bette H. Lustig uses a hermeneutic approach to the Proust texts, which are cited in French, and provides the analyses of the texts in English. Themes treating the soul include metempsychosis (transmigration), imprisonment and deliverance, eroticism and sadism, homophilia and misogyny, and time and memory. Moreover, the Celtic tradition is evident in the metempsychosis of souls to plants, animals, and inanimate objects, and their yearning to be delivered through a random encounter.
Homophilia and misogyny are pendant themes. The strong preference for male company is articulated through gestures and choices by both author and characters. In Proust, homophilia leads to misogyny: disparaging, controlling, even abusive attitudes toward the souls of women, which are demonized and imprisoned. Their souls, provisionally free in sleep, do not reach total deliverance until death. The ecstasy of Platonic mystical union is shown only between two males.
The soul of time travels at its own pace: by urgency, by seemingly slow passage, in narrative interruption or digression, chronological inversion, and in privileged moments. The soul of memory is present in odors or fragrances. Like Aquinas’s substratum soul, it connects past and present. Its enemy is forgetfulness. Time and memory are also correlated in collective memory. Presented in a clear, lively style, this book would be excellent in courses on Proust, French literature, religion, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.
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About the author


BETTE H. LUSTIG was awarded a Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University, and, while on a Fulbright Study Grant to Paris, an M.A. in French from the Middlebury College Graduate School of French in France. Dr. Lustig has published several articles on such authors as Ludovic Janvier, François Mauriac, and Romain Gary. She has also published a textbook, Textes et pastiches: une initiation à la littérature (1999), and, most recently, Judaism in Marcel Proust: Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, and Judaic Perspectives in Art (Lang, 2012). Dr. Lustig has taught extensively in several colleges in the Boston area, including Harvard University, Tufts University, Boston University, and Boston College. Recently, she was also invited three times to lecture on Proust at Harvard University.

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