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Modernist Visions

Marcel Proust’s «A la recherche du temps perdu» and Jean-Luc Godard’s «Histoire(s) du cinéma»


Miriam Heywood

This book explores the work of two major twentieth-century artists by placing them in critical proximity. Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma connect in ways that the author accounts for through the agency of cinema and its theorisation. Cinema, the art form that characterises the twentieth century, provides the tools with which to recognise Proust’s and Godard’s shared poetic enterprise and the modernist underpinning that leads, in both cases, to the simultaneous rejection of and yearning for artistic transcendence. Rather than bringing Proust and Godard together by highlighting their similarity to cinema, the author instead considers the ways that these two major works respond to questions raised by film theory and philosophy. In this way, the communication across the formal and historical gulf that divides Proust and Godard makes itself heard.
This study offers a new approach to film-philosophy scholarship by embracing the cinematic as an inspiring channel through which to rethink not only our relationship with film but also with literature and, potentially, with art at large.


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Introduction 1


1 Beugnet’s and Schmid’s Proust at the Movies. Like Kravanja before them, Beugnet and Schmid turn to Deleuzian film philosophy to support their claims. Both works compare Deleuze’s conception of the cinematic time- image with Proust’s subjectivized expression of ‘dechronological’ time – as that which allows the present and the past, the virtual and the actual, to co-exist.35 This book supports to some extent the claims made by Ricciardi, Beug- net and Schmid, which suggest that cinema and Proust are linked by a shared Modernist vocation and, furthermore, that Deleuzian film philosophy goes some way to explain the link between the cinematic time-image and Proustian involuntary memory.36 Although Deleuzian thought does not act as an unwavering model for the following analyses, certain elements of his film philosophy provide a theoretical backbone that runs through- out this project. As a thinker who engages at length with both Proust and Godard, it is no surprise that his work is central to Ricciardi’s comparative analysis of the two texts in question. Rather than to focus on Deleuze’s specific criticism of Proust and Godard, however, it is his philosophy of cinema that shapes my own approach to Histoire(s) du cinéma and A la recherche. For Deleuze conceives of the essential and changing nature of the film image not on the basis of previously established theories of lan- guage and semiotics, nor on the various theories of the image of fered by C. S. Peirce, or Christian Metz (although they are certainly present in...

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