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Lilies and Sesame

The Orient, Inversion, and Artistic Creation in «A la recherche du temps perdu»

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Anthony Everman

The Orient in Proust's Recherche appears as a pervasive and dynamic network of images and references. It operates not so much as the static topos, the figure demonstrated by Said to predominate in nineteenth-century literature, but as the more dynamic and unwieldy figure of trope. In fact, the protagonist's journey through an increasingly chaotic and unstable world reveals a progression from the Orient as topos to the Orient as trope. In this journey, the Oriental trope pervades such central questions as artistic creation, as well as the protagonist's sexual and ethnic identity, in subtle yet profound ways.