Community, communication and multiplicity in Proust

Philosophia 36 (1):55-65 (2008)
Abstract
The essay examines the relation between the explicit aesthetic ideology of Proust’s Recherche and the structure of the “involuntary memory” that is supposed to serve as that ideology’s empirical basis. I challenge the apparent solipsism and idealism of the narrator’s aesthetics by focusing on the one experience of involuntary memory that he omits from his final reflections, in Time Regained, on the relation between memory and art: this is the involuntary memory, in the earlier volume Sodom and Gomorrah, of his dead grandmother, a memory that he describes there as an experience of true otherness. Through a close reading of this passage, I argue that Proust’s interest in involuntary memory implies a concept of literary art as above all ethical in nature, in so far as it is the only means by which individuals can emerge from the solitude to which they are otherwise existentially condemned. In both the Sodom and Gomorrah passage and a later passage from Time Regained this emergence is cast in terms of a rhetoric of multiplicity that emphasizes both the disturbing and the productive dimensions connecting literature with life.
Keywords Proust  Memory  Art  Literature  Community  Multiplicity  Ethics  Mourning  Time
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