Proust in Time: The Prisoner
The Prisoner, the fifth volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and the opening passage of le roman Albertine, “the Albertine cycle,” is a portrait of obsessive love. Albertine, the prisoner of the title, prowls the golden cage of the narrator’s house, swathed in luxury, the object of his jealous, possessive fixation. How does romantic love work? And what does Proust’s picture of the tragicomedy of romantic love in belle époque France have to do with art, class, capital, politics, gossip, social contest, sexual orientation, memory, or possibilities for working intimacy?
As we read The Prisoner, we’ll consider the following questions: What kind of theory of romantic love emerges from this volume of In Search for Lost Time? Are obsession and possession necessary elements of love? What, if anything, is distinctly modern about the experience of this kind of love? How should we understand this volume against the intellectual tapestry of the late 19th- and early 20th century, especially given the rise of psychoanalysis, new theories of time and memory, and new theorizations of the social? How should we understand Proust as queer literature? How should we understand Proust’s work as Jewish literature? What kind of politics and aesthetics are at work in the novel? How does it speak to different kinds of modernism and what are its debts to aestheticism and decadence? What does Proust’s modernity have to do with the advent of total war? What does it mean to read Proust now? And, as ever, what does it mean to read Proust in time?
The translation of record will be the Modern Library edition (Moncrieff, Kilmartin, and Enright). Supplementary materials will emphasize selections from Proust’s critical tradition as well as entries in the history and theory of sexuality. These are likely to include: Adorno, Beckett, Benjamin, Bersani, Bowie, Foucault, Genette, Kristeva, Jameson, Said, Sedgwick, Shattuck et. al.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
January 28 — February 18, 2021