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Au seuil de la modernité: Proust, Literature and the Arts

Essays in Memory of Richard Bales


Edited By Nigel Harkness and Marion Schmid

This volume of essays, which is dedicated to the late Richard Bales, one of the doyens of Proust studies, considers Proust’s pivotal role at the threshold of modernity, between nineteenth- and twentieth-century forms of writing and thinking, between the Belle Epoque and the First World War, between tradition and innovation. More than just a temporal concept, this threshold is theorized in the volume as a liminal space where borders (geographical, artistic, personal) dissolve, where greater possibilities for artistic dialogue emerge, and where unexpected encounters (between artists, genres and disciplines) take place.
Working both backwards and forwards from the publication dates of A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27), the seventeen essays written specially for this volume take as their focus Proust’s manifold engagements with the world of modernity, as well as intermedial relations among the generations of artists before and immediately after him. Looking back to the nineteenth century, the undisputed starting point for nascent forms of modernity in Western art and literature, and a period that was uniquely formative for the young Proust, they also offer insights into inter-artistic dialogue in Surrealist and post-Surrealist painting and poetry.


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IV Artistic Correspondences -209


IV Artistic Correspondences Nigel Harkness Ut sculptura poesis: Literary-Sculptural Intersections in Balzac and Proust In Proust and the Middle Ages, Richard Bales draws attention to the pro- tracted process of rewriting which shaped the first pages of A la recherche du temps perdu. In the opening episode, the young Narrator wakes sud- denly and identifies profoundly with the content of his dream which is itself shaped by the book he had been reading before falling asleep: ‘il me semblait que j’étais moi-même ce dont parlait l’ouvrage: une église, un quatuor, la rivalité de François Ier et Charles-Quint’ (RTP, I, 3). Ear- lier versions of this episode identify the book as ‘un Traité d’archéologie monumentale’, and reveal important hesitations on Proust’s part as to the object of identification: it is first ‘la date de ces sculptures’, then ‘l’école régionale d’architecture’, corrected to ‘les sculptures dont il était question dans l’ouvrage’ (RTP, I, 1086), before the author settles on a final formula- tion in which the self is situated in relation to architectural, musical and historical modes of expression.1 In these revisions to an episode in which questions of self, time, reading and perception are central, the sculptural reference appears, disappears and reappears in a way which suggests that its place within the poetic and thematic structure of the Recherche from its 1 Bales discusses this variant in the context of the medieval atmosphere which is gener- ated in the ‘Combray’ section of the Recherche in...

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