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The Material Object in the Work of Marcel Proust

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Tom Baldwin

This book describes the development of Proust’s treatment of material objects from his earliest work Les Plaisirs et les jours to his mature novel À la recherche du temps perdu. It examines the literary influences on Proust’s way with objects in the light of certain critical texts and reconsiders the significance of Ruskin. As the movement from unreflective and spontaneous representation to a meta-narrative of consciousness is traced, some questions as to the banality of the ‘banal object’ arise. The meta-narrative finds resonance in a peculiarly Proustian pictoriality which has been largely unnoticed. It resides in descriptions where objects appear simultaneously or at different times as things in paintings and in the real. By exploring connections between Proust’s pictoriality and his reflections on ‘matière’ and ‘surface’, the author suggests a radical approach to the modernism of À la recherche du temps perdu.
Contents: Critics and Proust’s objects – The literary influences on Proust’s way with objects – Proust’s taste in objects: from the natural to the man-made – The role of ‘simple’ objects and pictured objects – The creation of a distance between subject and object – The use of ‘material’ and ‘matter’ in À la recherche du temps perdu – The use of ‘surface’ in À la recherche du temps perdu.