French and Italian | Proust in Context
F650 | 2666 | Gray


This seminar will be devoted to the study of Proust's magisterial
novel, A la recherche du temps perdu, through close reading of
several volumes. We will begin with Du côté de chez Swann,
published in 1913 and comprising Combray, with its retrieval of
the past through an initial experience of involuntary memory; Un
amour de Swann, detailing Swann's obsession for "une femme...qui
n'était pas [s]on genre"; and Nom de pays: le nom, where
Swann's impact is traced through the narrator's friendship with his
daughter. We will proceed to A l'ombre des jeunes filles en
fleur with its radiant aesthetic meditations, generated both by
the visionary appearance of Albertine and "la petite bande," and by
the artist Elstir's land- and seascapes. Turning to La
prisonnière and Albertine disparue, we will explore what
Beckett called "the Albertine tragedy" in his claim that "[s]urely in
the whole of literature there is no study of that desert of loneliness
and recrimination that men call love posed and developed with such
diabolical unscrupulousness" (1931). We will conclude with the war
episode, the triumphal re-experience of involuntary memory, and the
promise of salvation through art in the final volume, Le temps
retrouvé. Throughout, we will be attentive to socio-historic
context: the fin-de-siècle of Proust's young adulthood, the Belle
Epoque, political tensions of the Dreyfus Affair, the cataclysm of
World War I. We will be equally attentive to the evolving critical
context of Proust studies; assignments for each class meeting will
therefore include both primary and secondary reading. The course will
conclude with consideration of cultural conditions under which Proust
is readtoday. For the benefit of students from outside the French and
Italian Department, discussion will be conducted in English as well as
French. Exercises will include an exposé and a choice of either two
essay exams (midterm and final) or a 20-page seminar paper.