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					 Marcel Proust

Remembrance of Things Past
       Georges Proust
            • French intellectual, novelist,
              essayist and critic.
            • Author of huge novel, La
              Recherche du Temps Perdu,
              or In Search of Lost Time
              (also translated as
              Remembrance of Things Past
               – "a seven-volume novel
                 based on Proust's life told
                 psychologically and
       La belle époque. or “The
            beautiful era"
• A period in France's history that began during the
  late 19th century and lasted until World War I.
• After a humiliating defeat to Prussia in 1871,
  France attempted to reassert its national pride and
  honor during the next thirty years.
• It quickly repaid its debt to Prussia (which had
  been incorporated into the German Empire) and
  sought to reestablish the reputation of its army
   – (Proust refers to the common practice of dueling as
     a national movement to assert French masculinity).
• The stabilization of the political situation, in addition to
  Baron Haussman's modernization of Paris in the 1850s,
  helped usher in the culture-rich era of the belle époque.
• The new, French-dominated artistic school of
  Impressionism rose to international prominence, and
  masters such as Van Gogh and Monet left an indelible
  mark on the world of art;
• the Eiffel Tower, erected in 1889, dominated the
  Parisian skyline as a triumph of architectural
• The Lumière Brothers revolutionized entertainment by
  inventing modern day cinema.
• It was also a time of great scientific achievement, as
  Louis Pasteur and Pierre and Marie Curie helped
  France lead the world in the study of disease and
  A Remembrance of Times Past
• A semi-autobiographical novel in seven volumes
  (the last three volumes published posthumously).
• Published in France between 1913 and 1927,
  many of the novel's ideas, motifs, and scenes
  appear in adumbrated form in Proust's unfinished
  novel, Jean Santeuil (1896-99), and in his
  unfinished hybrid of philosophical essay and
  story, Contre Sainte-Beuve (1908-09).
            Important Concepts
• Involuntary memory When compared with
  voluntary memory this concept designates
  memories retrieved by "intelligence," that is,
  memories produced when we put conscious effort
  into remembering events, people, and places.
• Proust's narrator laments that such memories are
  inevitably partial, and do not bear the "essence" of
  the past.
• Involuntary memories, on the other hand, function
  similarly to the phenomenon known as déjà-vu:
  they possess a vivid and plenary sensory
  immediacy that seems to obliterate the passage of
  time between the original event and its re-
  experience in involuntary memory.
• A Neurasthenia Narrator (Marcel)
• Dr. George Miller Beard in 1869 identified the
  condition of "neurasthenia" described a condition
  with symptoms of
   –fatigue, anxiety, headache,
   –impotence, neuralgia and depression.
• This state was especially explained as being a
  result of exhaustion of the central nervous system's
  energy reserves, which Beard attributed to
• Physicians of the Beard way of thinking associated
  neurasthenia with the stresses of urbanization and
  the pressures placed on the intellectual class by the
  increasingly competitive business environment.
  Typically, it was associated with upper class
  individuals in sedentary employment.
                Major Ideas
• The novel shows how we alienate ourselves from
  ourselves through distractions, and also, in
  memorable passages involving the telephone,
  automobile, and airplane, reflects on the changes
  wrought by the advent of new technology.
• Similarly, the author wove World War I into his
  story, including an aerial bombardment of Paris;
  the narrator's boyhood haunts have become a
  battlefield, with 600,000 Germans lost in the
  struggle for Méséglise, and Combray itself divided
  between the opposing armies.
• Proust had trouble deciding whether Swann's Way
  should be a fictional account or an explicit
  discussion about his philosophical interests. He
  settled the question by making the novel both.
• The nature of time and the power of memory,
  have both fictional and philosophical implications
  in the novel.
   – Marcel's favorite writer, Bergotte, is a reference to
     Henri Bergson and his theories of time and space.
   – Bergson believed that time was not necessarily a
     linear, clock-like, measure of fixed and
     unchangeable moments.
   – Instead, he believed that time, or duration as he
     liked to call it, involved a "flowing together" of
     different moments and experiences so that one
     individual point in time was indistinguishable from
     any other.
  Bergson convinced many
  young people through his
  writing that immediate
  experience and intuition
  were as important as
  rational and scientific
  thinking for understanding

In 1927 Bergson was
awarded the Nobel Prize in
• Another theme that Proust emphasizes is the link
  between reading and self-knowledge.
• He believed that with each reading of a book, a
  different meaning emerged, since readers tend to
  shape the characters they read about.
• Consequently, re-reading books enjoyed in
  childhood allows readers to perceive how they
  have changed.
   – Marcel is an avid reader and books soon become
     more of a reality to him than the outside world. His
     interest in Oedipus Rex and François le Champi,
     which both involve a quasi-sexual relationship
     between a mother and son, is a manifestation of his
     anxiety about his own relationship with his mother.
1.    When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
2.    I summon up remembrance of things past,
3.    I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
4.    And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
5.    Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
6.    For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
7.    And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
8.    And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
9.    Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
10.   And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
11.   The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
12.   Which I new pay as if not paid before.
13.   But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
14.   All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

                   Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXX [30]
Major Ideas in Swan’s Way: “Overture”
 • The relationship between time and memory,
   which served, perhaps, as Proust's primary
   motivation for writing Remembrance of
   Things Past.
   – Proust believed that time was not necessarily a
     linear, clock-like, measure of fixed and
     unchangeable moments.
   – Instead, he believed that time, or duration, as he
     liked to call it, involved a "flowing together" of
     different moments and experiences so that one
     individual point in time was indistinguishable
     from any other.
• Marcel's complex emotional attitude toward
  his mother. Marcel's mother occupies an
  important place in the novel;
  – Marcel looks to her for guidance, sympathy, and
    love, but when he receives these comforts, he feels
    guilty about not being more independent. Marcel
    experiences this guilt by envisioning the effects
    that his need for his mother has on her. He
    imagines, for example, that begging his mother to
    spend the night with him "traced a first wrinkle
    upon her soul and brought out a first white hair on
    her head." As a result, their relationship is tainted
    by Marcel's belief that he is always causing her
    some sort of grief.
  – The Oedipal triangle between Marcel, his mother,
    and his father serves as a model for various
    relationships throughout “Swann's Way.”
The interaction between habit or routine and
     • The "magic lantern" and the images it projects
       on young Marcel's bedroom walls at Combray
       make him unable to recognize his room; as a
       result, he feels lost in time, and must struggle
       to remember where and when he is.
     • In this instance, breaking with habit
       (changing the habitual appearance of his
       room) causes Marcel anguish, but in the
       episode of the madeleine, breaking with his
       usual routine by having tea causes his
       pleasurable reminiscences of Combray to
               Sites Cited
• Maxwell, Daniel. SparkNote on Swann's
  Way. 12 Apr. 2007

• “In Search of Lost Time” Wikipedia the
  Free Encyclopedia. 12 Apr. 2007

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