Marcel Proust: Swann’s Way
15 West 16th Street New York
New York 10011
“Well – what remains to be written after that?” wrote Virginia Woolf of Marcel Proust in a 1922 letter. A century after the publication of Swann’s Way, the first volume of the monumental novel, In Search of Lost Time, Proust continues to speak to us as compellingly as ever. From the experience of train travel to the strangeness of kissing to the logic of snobbery, Proust’s novel conducts a vast phenomenology of human experience. At the same time, it’s also an unflinching chronicle of a particular era, as the glittering decadence of the belle époque gave way to the horrors to the First World War, and rapidly changing modern life came to include new inventions like the telephone, the automobile, and the aeroplane, as well as the advent of film.
In this course, we will work our way carefully through Swann’s Way, recovering Proust from the clichés and caricatures in order to discover why he continues to be important today. Considering his novel from the viewpoints of aesthetics, philosophy, and history, we will look at the thinkers and artists with whom he was engaged, as well as the social and cultural context in which he was writing. Our questions will include: how does Proust bridge realism and modernism, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? What are his insights into problems about the nature of memory, time, and perception, as well as sexuality, desire, and social relations? What are the formal innovations of his work, and what is his legacy in literary history? What can he tell us about Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, and what can reading him tell us about our own turn of the century today?
Enroll early for a free copy of Swann’s Way (the Lydia Davis translation, courtesy Penguin Books!)
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
May 14 — June 11, 2014