Proust in Time: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
247 West 37th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Full of the pleasures and pains of adolescence, actresses and art, comic enthusiasms and the ironies of disappointment, romantic projection and sexual discovery, snobbery and social suffocation, problems of aesthetics, education, and knowledge, the second volume of Proust’s panoramic In Search of Lost Time asks: in what kind of world do we find ourselves when we leave childhood behind? Often rendered into English as In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, this section of In Search of Lost Time was first published in 1919, not long after the devastations of World War I and just three years before Proust’s death in 1922. And this section of In Search of Lost Time is, indeed, a work of shadows. Not only does it commemorate the vanished world of Belle Époque France—a world whose absurdities, inequities, and sheer, surface glitter took on new ironies in light of the invention of total war—it also represents adolescence as a period in which it first becomes possible to understand how profoundly life is marked (not always for the worse) by different degrees of shade, nuance, and darkness. How do we go on in the shadowed world of the present, shaped as much by violence and social hierarchy as by art and beauty? How can and should we memorialize such a world in thought, action, or fiction?
Both new and experienced readers of Proust will be welcome in this course, which concentrates on the second movement of In Search of Lost Time within the rich web of its modernist contexts: the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune, the Dreyfus Affair, the strange innovations of late 19th- and early 20th-century art, letters, and music, and technological developments in communication, photography, cinema, and the instruments of war. What does the passage from innocence to experience look like against such a dynamic backdrop? How should we understand gender, sexuality, and eros as the world grows into its agonized modernity? What should we make of Proust’s experimental style and his reimagining of the form of the novel? How did Proust’s first readers understand his work, and what should we make of it in our own historical moment? What was literary modernism and what is its legacy? In asking these questions, we’ll also be posing two larger queries: what does it mean to read Proust now? What does it mean to read Proust in time?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
September 12 — October 03, 2018