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Proust’s Imaginary Museum

Reproductions and Reproduction in "À la recherche du temps perdu"

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Gabrielle Townsend

This study of Marcel Proust’s creative imagination examines an aspect of the novel that has hitherto been largely overlooked: the author’s dependence on secondary visual sources. Proust made constant use of reproductions – photographs, engravings, postcards, illustrations in books – as sources of reference and as narrative devices in their own right. Furthermore, he consistently chose to use reproductions in preference to originals, whether people, places or works of art. Bringing together for the first time a mass of factual information documenting Proust’s use of second-hand images, the author argues that reproductions play a key role in the work’s complex, multi-layered structure. Rather than being hampered by their limitations, Proust took advantage of their distancing effect to free his imagination and to insert new layers of meaning into his narrative.
Contents: Proust’s reliance on the reproduced image – The reproduction of art: real and fictional works of art in À la recherche du temps perdu – Proust and photography: portraits and imagery: The Narrator as collector and photographer - The photograph in the context of time, death and memory - The ‘photographic’ narrative techniques of À la recherche – The structural role of reproductions: The character of the reproduction as sign - The reproduction and metaphor.