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"Les Moi en Moi": The Proustiari Self in


Philosophical

Perspective

Joshua Landy*
Marcel Proust sets himself an equally
novel,
is not just
task: to extract unity from a Self which
monumental
two
but, so to speak, doubly multiple.1
together
Bringing
multiple
strands of philosophical-psychological
inquiry, Proust suggests that each
into a set of faculties or
is fractured
both synchronically,
individual
and
into a series of distinct organizations
drives, and diachronically,
to the phase
of those faculties or drives, varying according
orientations
monumental

his

In

of life (or even the time of day). He thus places his narrator, and indeed
Not only do we change over time, he
his reader, in a dual predicament.2
a common
so
to
factor which would
is
difficult
that
it
pinpoint
implies,
us
term
We
seek
made
the
(a
grant
popular by Locke,
"personal identity"
within
but we cannot achieve unanimity
and their followers),
Hume,
at any given moment.
In fact, the synchronie multiplicity
is
ourselves
even greater
sources
to
Plato
and
the
than Proust's
(from
Augustine
since on his model
French moralistes) acknowledge,
the diachronic
our
not
incarnations
various
do
becomes
simply replace one
synchronie:
of our conscious
another but remain with us forever, in the background
a complex
structure
several
of
ness, forming
superposed
geological
strata.

a prodigious
if Proust's narrator,
feat of escapology
were
to
the above con
dubbed
from
"Marcel,"
emerge
traditionally
straints clutching
intact a convincing
version of selfhood. Like any such
version, his has to satisfy two conditions,
(identity
namely coherence
with oneself)
and uniqueness
from other
(distinction
individuals).
in other words, has to find an element which sets him apart from
Marcel,
other human beings, but which, unlike for example his love for Gilberte,
It would

be

is permanent;

or,

conversely,

an

element

which

guarantees

continuity

across

to breathe,
for example
time and which,
unlike
his need
is
a
ever
to
him.
For
time
he
of
the
very long
peculiar
despairs
satisfying
to me," he laments, "as something
twofold requirement:
"my life appeared

*R. Lanier
also grateful

Anderson
to Hans

comments
invaluable
and
provided
Ulrich
Gumbrecht
for his extremely

suggestions
helpful

on

this paper.

advice.

New Literary History, 2001, 32: 91-132

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I am

92

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

utterly devoid of the support of an individual, identical and permanent selfn


He is, however, ultimately
and the
successful,
{F 802-3, my emphasis).
burden of the present paper will be to explain how exactly he accom
first by means
his great escape,
of a hidden
(the
plishes
faculty
or
which
he
discovers
and then, elegantly
perspective,
"temp?rament")
to cure the other: using the synchronie
enough, by using one multiplicity
to impose order on a diachronically
division
fractured
Self. Marcel's
an
turns
cast
existence
in
it
is
out,
solution,
literary terms, a life in
term
I
As for Proust s
literature
shall
the
aesthetic
(a genre
biography).
are
not
there
does
but concerns,
indications
that
it
here
solution,
stop
a

as

one
in which
(or bio-aesthetic),
even
as
art
is continually
it unwinds.
spun into
experience
in critical circles of the Proustian Self
Much, of course, has been made
a Humean
and its vicissitudes,
whether
from a Freudian
(Bersani),
instead,

life

or even

lived

literature

a Sartrean

all the analyses,


(M?ller) angle.3 Almost
one or other of the
to simplify matters
by selecting
to deal with simultaneously,
Proust wishes
either on
problems
focusing
the diachronic
of the synchronie
division to the near-exclusion
(Bersani,
or
on
to the
the
Genette,
Picon,
Poulet,
Dancy, May)
synchronie
(Dancy),
however,

seem

as is
In addition,
of the diachronic
detriment
(Bowie, Shattuck).4
the
almost
of
the
understandable
irreducible
novel,
given
complexity
the analyses often stop short of Proust's full account,
resorting at one
as panacea
extreme
to an uncritical
of
acceptance
involuntary memory
at
out
of
other
it
hand
and
the
or,
extreme,
blithely
(Rorty)5
dismissing
in what are taken to be insoluble
conflicts
(Deleuze, Bowie,
revelling
.6As for the few analytical philosophers
who have commented
Terdiman)
extensively

on

Proust?Alexander

Nehamas

being,

as

always,

the

excep

to
tend, again
sound) reasons,
(and sometimes
tion?they
view Proust
in his own right
is
less as a philosopher
(Dancy
quite
adamant about this point) and more as a convenient
and vivid illustra
for obvious

I shall
ideas to be found elsewhere
(Rorty) ? In what follows,
to
that
is
there
coherence,
attempt
suggest
profound
deep philosophical
and conceptual
in Proust's portrait
of human
sophistication,
novelty
we
to
out each
tease
that
if
have
only
subjectivity;
patience
enough
not
of
its
knots
be
thread, many
(if perhaps
all)
may
eventually

tion

of

unraveled.

1. Synchronie
The idea that human
or "psychic apparatus")

Division:
inwardness
is or may

Faculties

and Drives

(whether it is called "soul," "mind,"


be broken down into a set of separate

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THE

SELF

PROUSTIAN

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

PERSPECTIVE

93

parts has an extremely


long history indeed. It is already implicit in the
one
to
the "heart" within Achilles'
take
Iliad where,
"shaggy
example,
breast" is "divided two ways" (?v Se oi ?jxop / axf|0eaaiv hxc?oicx
8i?v8ixa
texts of Western
in the earliest
uepuripicjev);8 and it is made
explicit
so called, namely Plato's Socratic dialogues.
In
philosophy
properly
indicates
that his ambiva
Achilles'
case, the continuation
(1:190-92)
immediate
between
lence takes the form of a choice
aims, namely
and control over the "anger" (fruu?c) that
revenge upon Agamemnon
for such aims, for the
call the areas responsible
he feels. We might
or
our
each one distin
interests
of
drives,
values,
particular
pursuit
use
not
does
the word, but his
of
its
course,
Plato,
objective.
guished by
of the soul?bgistikon,
thumoeides, epithumetikon?
in that way, as the horse-and-charioteer
classified
could Freud's
of the Phaedrus makes plain. And so, perhaps,
metaphor
which
strive
for
narcissistic
and
those
id,
ego,
superego,
agencies
and
instinctual
satisfaction,
gratification
respectively.9
self-preservation
on the other hand, the three segments of the soul are
In Augustine,
of activity,
the terms
rather than orientations
powers of the mind
and
"will"
that
which
each
"intellect," "memory,"
part is able
designating
to do, as opposed
to that which each wants to achieve. Here,
therefore,
as in Descartes'
that of Kant, we tend to
schema and {mutatis mutandis)
three

could

components
surely be

speak of faculties.
we consider
Whether
two central discrepancies

in terms of drives or faculties,


the multiplicity
and disagreements
between
the various theo
to our discussion.
ries and theorists will prove germane
First there is the
relative

of each model,
from Homer's
binary
apparently
soul
and
thence to Nietzsche's
elaborate
system
tripartite
of an
the various drives are themselves agglomerations
picture in which
number of sub-drives.10 Secondly
there is what one might call
undefined
complexity
to Plato's

the dynamic question,


the parts relate to
the ways in which
concerning
one another. It is particularly
to
know
whether
they naturally
important
or at least ideally work in concert
constituted
(as in Aristotle's
perfectly
are
or
to
in eternal
whether
soul, according
John Cooper11)
they
and conflict, and if the latter, which may gain control and
In order to explain how a subordinate
circumstances.
drive
a
to
for
dominant
it
be
one,
may overpower
may
necessary
example,
assume that an external event affects them in different ways, strengthen
the latter. Such, I submit, is the case with
ing the former and weakening
the Self in Proust:
it is divided
into at least three strictly synchronie
come
to dominate
at any one time, with
each
of
which
may
components,
no guarantee
that all three can ever be brought
into full alignment.
in most cases to a simpler two
Proust's narrator appeals
Admittedly,
to
the
related
part model,
roughly
esprit and coeur of the seventeenth
competition
under what

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94

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

a number
of
he so often draws. On
century moralistes on whom
two "hypotheses,"
occasions, Marcel describes himself as caught between
one of which assures him that everything
is as he desires
the
it, while
never
other offers concrete
that
evidence
unshakable)
(although
quite
to think that Gilberte
it is not. He would like, for example,
is in love with
him (5W583,
.BG227), or that there is a perfectly
innocent explanation
for Albertine's
but at the same time a less comforting
voice
behavior,
(that of
Gilberte

the

"unknown

has

shown

seamstress"

that
keeps recalling
and
that
{SW 583),
make
Albertine's
self-contradictions
her
whether
infidelity,
frequent
hetero- or homosexual,
(C 465-66, F 568, BG 308).
extremely probable
the hypothesis
of faith belongs, on Marcel's view,
Somewhat
surprisingly,
to the intellect
in on the
far from homing
{intelligence, raison) which,
its
time
for
the
elaborate
truth, spends
weaving
justifications
unjustifi
of doubt
able {ET 432); nor is it from the head that the hypothesis
springs but from the heart or indeed viscera, seat of the intuitive faculty
little

enthusiasm

within
him)
thus far

{facult? intuitive, intuition, sensibilit?).


Thus
it comes to interpersonal
intellect and intuition
(which, when
as
one
term
well
faith and skepticism)
cohabit
relations,
just
might
within
that Marcel
is never able to
the soul, so uneasily
uneasily
or
even after Albertine's
it is the optimistic
determine,
death, whether
is to be trusted. To complicate matters
the pessimistic
hypothesis which
tenant occupying
still further, however,
there is at least one more
the
of
reveals in his more
elaborate
the
of
moi, as Marcel
process
analyses
A third agency, namely
deliberation.
the will {volont?), always accompa
if this will is so frequently
nies the other two, but silently, surreptitiously;
in Marcel's
of
its very
overlooked
internal
dissension,
descriptions
discretion
is to blame. While
intuition doubts and intellect rationalizes,
will makes
the decisions,
the Self as a whole with
constantly
providing
to the
what it needs, even if that quantity may change from one moment
next. When,
to be introduced
for example, Marcel has the opportunity
romance
a foregone
to Albertine,
his intelligence assumes
(and thus
his

for opposite

sensibilit? demurs
ignores both:

conclusion,
uninteresting)
and his volont? studiously

reasons,

at a very
now
this pleasure
assessed
low value
that it was
My brain
[intelligence]
this illusion,
assured.
did not for a moment
share
But,
inside, my will
[volont?]
servant
that will which
is the persevering
and
unalterable
of our
successive
personalities;
faithful,
ensure

toiling
that the

intelligence
account

hidden

of

in

away

and

incessantly,
never
self may

and the sensibility


its actions,

it seems

the
with

shadow,
no

lack what

despised,
for
thought
is needed.

downtrodden,
the
...

untiringly
of the self, to
variability
as the
It is as invariable

[sensibilit?] are fickle, but since it is silent, gives no


almost

non-existent;

it is by

its dogged

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determina

THE

tion

SELF

PROUSTIAN

that

other

the

it, whereas

seeing

that
pass

the driver.

of

parts

our
all

personality
own
their

clearly
a discussion

distinguish

and

intelligence
pleasure
the hour

constituent
they

PERSPECTIVE

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

my
sensibility
began
be in knowing
there would
at which
Imust
start, and

as

to

are

Elstir's

address

but

led,

without

uncertainties.
the

real
will

But my

Albertine....
it was

95

value
would
it called

that

So my
of the
not

let

out

to

(BG 614-15)

them
There are, in short, at least three faculties sharing the Self between
a triad of will, sensibility, and intellect which may
at any one moment,
owe something
to the Cartesian
model.
Not only do the faculties
as
come
intellect
clashes with instinct for
when
into
conflict,
frequently
a subject
over
towards
the
Selfs
overall
attitude
(the two
power
or when will bypasses them both in situations of decision
"hypotheses"),
unaware
of each other's
they may even remain periodically
making;
a
severe
not
threat to any
of
which
if
existence?all
poses
operations,
project

of self-unification.

2. Diachronic

Division:

Sedimentation

of the Self

As if matters were not problematic


enough, Marcel's
presentation
on the uses and disadvantages
of meeting
(above) of his inner dialogue
an additional,
level
of com
towards
Albertine
separate
entirely
points
a syn
as
it
Marcel
the
Self.
Not
does
portray
only
plexity afflicting
to
in
he
resistant
when
chronically multiple
principle
synthesis;
entity,
as "the persevering
one of its components
and unalterable
describes
servant of our successive personalities^
he intimates
that it is no more
on his view, has
dimension.
Our personality,
uniform
in the diachronic
over time, to such an extent in fact that
a way of changing dramatically
today's

"moi"

cannot

predict

nor

tomorrow's,

even

always

remember

so radical is the rupture


that of yesterday
that it gives the
(jP805);
over
course
of
deaths
the
of a single
and
rebirths
impression
multiple
a series of "new selves" each of which
life {BG 340, .F653), producing
name from the preceding
"bear a different
should,
suggests Marcel,
one" (F804; compare BG 720). With no solution of continuity between
to look like a gallery of photo
its various incarnations,
the Self begins
at
taken
different
of
stages
graphs
Just as we envisage
development.
in a succession of still frames ("I possessed
in my memory
other people
only

a series

of Albertines,

separate

from

one

another

...

a collection

of

into an
[C 192]), so our own life disintegrates
profiles or snapshots"
of apparently unrelated molecules
accumulation
of memory,
the transi
tions between
them unclear, their number
limited only by the divisibility
of time into smaller and smaller units. Indeed,
it is in large part because

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96

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

we ourselves are constantly


both in the level of our knowledge
changing,
and in our attitudes,
the entire
that we see other people?indeed
we
ambient world?in
To
the fragmented
be
the world
do.12
sure,
way
in
also
evolve
and
of
themselves.
But
{SG192) and its inhabitants
(C83)
even in periods of comparative
stasis, they appear, like the sun, to move
relative to our shifting position.
If, however, we really are recreated
entirely
over time?
next, how is continuity
possible
that moi we
waking up, to recover precisely
can we
in
(GW110)? How,
asleep
particular,
our old, departed
selves which is the hallmark
not merely
the imaginative
reconstruction
of
someone
a
but
else's,
genuine
re-experiencing
our

attitudes

used

to

sensation,

organize

to the
from one moment
on
do we manage,

How

surrendered
when we fell
have that direct access to
of involuntary memory?
an earlier life, as if it were
from within of the way

when

"some

former

self

. . .

[takes] the place of the present self (SG 581; compare TR


momentarily
BG
Proust's narrator repeatedly
284,
raises,
300)? These are questions
from the first section of the novel
(SW49) onwards. And the answer he
ends up giving involves an attenuation
of the rhetoric of death and
For the
rebirth, one which proves to have been somewhat misleading.
trace. All of the
old Marcels
do not, as it turns out, disappear without
avatars remain forever within the mental
apparatus as a ghostly residue,
as the faint and often unconscious
trace of previous modes
mnemonic
a
of being. We carry around with us, imprinted
indelibly on our mind,
if inconspicuous
record of every single phase of our develop
precise
a multitude
ment
to date. The Self thus comprises
of overlaid
strata,
a deposed
era of the
each one representing
moi from a different
individual's

existence.

refers to the "death" of a self, he means


therefore, Marcel
more
its
than
removal
from power,
its relegation
from a
nothing
as
a
over
a
to
Self
of
whole
the
position
predominance
deeper, more
a
hidden
Itmay be largely displaced
level of the mind.
successor, but
by
an
it is never exorcised
it?in
As
Marcel
puts
unusually
entirely.
pithy
When,

four-word

sentence?"Rien

ne

se

perd"

("nothing

is ever

lost,"

SG

34).

name
in the magic
the belief
of the Guermantes
Thus, for example,
never quite deserts Marcel,
to which it
in spite of all the disenchantment
is subjected over the course of the tale. In the third volume alone,
its
at
least
three
suffers
blows
280,
(GW29,
719),
separate
prestige
only to
bounce back each time {GWSO, 514, 744-45) with renewed vigor, so that
to the illusion,
the volume more or less ends on a renewed commitment
Even in the
{GW779-80).
catalyzed by an invitation from the Princess
names
to the
later volumes,
after etymology
has ostensibly
reduced
Marcel
suffers
arbitrary signifiers they really are,13
relapses into
periodic
his fascination
For
with
the orange-tinted
while
the moi
bisyllable.

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THE

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

SELF

PROUSTIAN

PERSPECTIVE

97

longer sits at the forefront of his Self, it is liable to return


"to renew [itself] in me"
(albeit briefly) to prominence,
a sort of section of
{F77S), "to draw up from the depths of my memory
the past of the Guermantes,
attended
by all the images of seignorial
at that earlier time of my
life had
forest and tall flowers which
it" {TR 240; compare TR 282).
accompanied
In the same way, Marcel's
love for Gilberte
(at least for the Gilberte he

Guermantes no
at any moment

knew as a young man)


lingers on indefinitely.14 He may imagine, at the
start of Place-Names: The Place, that he has rid himself of it forever, the
"suicide"
committed
relevant part of him having
{BG 255), yet he
on his arrival at
finds
himself
overwhelmed,
immediately
suddenly
of the very same feeling
Balbec, by a recrudescence
{BG 300). Of course,
to stop loving someone.
It is just that the loving self does
it is possible
not, for all that, simply vanish; rather it takes a back seat, no longer
but

preeminent

under

still,

certain

circumstances,

to

ready

re-emerge

and reassert its control. Indeed, the process of ceasing to love someone
division of the Self. For since it
also turns on the synchronic-diachronic
to the
still contains any number of avatars which are utterly indifferent
loved one, one merely has to wait for these voters to reach a majority
for the indiff?rents within

within the "commonwealth,"15


all the passionn?s:
I was
which

one

not

indiff?rents,
woman.
And
for which

been

brought

person.
These
stranger.
while
the
new

as

men,

no

I had
our

but

only,

passionate
des jaloux]?jealous
no doubt
it would

des

without

man

were

there

noticing
about

In a

wish.
it, be

it were

to displace

of a

in
army
composite
men
[des
passionn?s,
jealous
was
men
not one of whom
of the same
jealous
come
this that one day would
be from
the cure
the march-past

indifferent

men,

one
the elements
mass,
may
by one,
. . . until
a
others
in
the
end
has
by
change
a
to conceive
if we were
be impossible
single

composite

replaced
it would

which

one

(F660, on Albertine)
states

of

. . We
.
sentiment

elements

seek

which

introduced

it an ever-increasing

285, on Gilberte)

to which

consciousness
must

portion

the

to encourage
now
is no more

into

the mind

of our

soul,

person

these
than

contest
until

thoughts,
a memory
with

at

last

we

whom

that

love

them

dwindles,

so

sentiment,

the victory

remains

to make

wrest

is complete.

grow,
that the
from
{BG

What exactly is, then, the nature of all these subsidiary selves? While a
few may be inborn or even hereditary
it would
(GW 547), on the whole
as
more
a
rasa
a
that
the
Self
life
of
tabula
than
appear
begins
genetically
we inherit from our
construction.
Those characteristics
preprogrammed
ancestors
Charlus
(such as the tic, held in common by the homosexual
and his heterosexual
are
of
the
brother,
wrist)
nervously
twisting

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98

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

no more
than the color of our hair;
attributes,
superficial
significant
what counts?what
indicates
about the deep structure
truly
something
of our personality?is
the end to which we put them, an end which
(as
in the case of the Guermantes
"the
individual
brothers)
may vary,
of impersonal
his distinctive
characteristics
and
by means
expressing
les moi consist not in a
therefore,
{F9S5).
Primarily,
a
in
set
but
of identifications
transmitted
with
gallery
dispositions
different
and
there
of
adherence.
Thus
is
the
desire, belief,
objects
Marcel who seeks all the satisfactions
of love in his mother,
followed by
the Marcel
who
idolizes Gilberte,
then the Marcel
who
stalks the
as
Duchesse
de Guermantes,
and finally the Marcel who keeps Albertine
atavistic

traits"

of

his "prisoner" in Paris. ("In the past," notes Marcel,


"my time had been
or that" [7^747].)
I desired
into periods
in which
this woman
divided
in Balbec as a magic world, divorced
There
is the Marcel who believes
in the mystery of its
from the everyday world in which he lives, bathing
name and its reputation;
the same
there is the Marcel who believes
no
least
in
about Venice;
there is the Marcel who
(at
theory)
longer
that about any place. Since external
sites serve as boundary
an
of a room (SW5-9)
markers
for
internal chronology,
the memory
is
a
term such local, time-bound
also the imprint of
former self. We might
believes

selves

the

moi-Gilberte,

the

moi-Albertine,

the

moi-Venise,

and

so on.

Now within
these categories
there is a further subdivision,
according
to the specific attitude which
in
the subject takes towards the object
return
to
comment
to
there
is
Marcel's
cited
the
above,
Thus,
question.
the moi-Albertine-passionn?,
the moi-Albertine-indifferent,
moi-AWertine-jaloux,
and so on: "I developed
the habit of becoming myself a different person,
to whom my thoughts had turned:
to the particular Albertine
according
a jealous, an indifferent,
a frenzied person
a voluptuous,
a melancholy,
un furieux],
un m?lancolique,
[un jaloux, un indiff?rent, un voluptueux,
to the strength of [my] belief
created anew ... in proportion
[croyance]"
the balance
is firmly shifted away from the outside
{BG 719-20). Here
in the
the distinguishing
of each sub-self consisting
feature
world,
as we saw
it of the various faculties which,
relative importance
within
the psyche.
Since only our faith in the
above, vie for control within
to render her
has the power
and mystery
of a person
Albertine
finds
herself
invested
it
is
when
GW32),
(compare
a
Marcel
considers
himself
without
admixture
that
by "croyance"
same
is
faith
renders
and
it
the
total
of
that
which
voluptueux,
dissipation
uniqueness
desirable

him

when suspicion for the


indiff?rent. The jaloux emerges, presumably,
a bedrock of
over
the
trust,
part predominates
m?lancolique when
belief suffers the vague rumblings
of subterranean
fears of which
it is,
at
under such circumstances,
the
mercy.
completely

most

Each

sub-self

is, Iwould

suggest,

a hierarchical

arrangement

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in which,

THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 99


as in a physical compound,
in their
the various parts, blended
together
to form what looks and feels like a single
combine
relative proportions,
the melancholic,
the indifferent?and
is
substance?the
jealous man,
thus able to determine
what we refer to as our "self of the moment.16
are not usually able to isolate, at the time, the elements of which it is
and working
back from external
thus it is only in retrospect,
made;
can
reconstruct
of his state of
that
Marcel
the
full
evidence,
complexity
to
"I
mind
disconsolate
continued
live by the
his
during
period:
me. But
as
true
that
Albertine
told
which
everything
hypothesis
accepted
a
time
of
itmay be that during this
which I
wholly contrary hypothesis,

We

to think, never
left me;
this is all the more
refused
since
probable
...
at her anger would not have been
otherwise
my lack of astonishment
At the time, we impose a much
(C 465-66).
comprehensible"
simpler
a
label on our state of mind, generating
which,
disposition
hypostasized
we may speculate,
reflex (what Marcel calls
solidifies into a conditioned
a "secretary of habit" [SG 187] ).
At the lowest level, finally, the sub-self is further divided into a number
of discrete
date

fragments,

of manufacture

each

corresponding

{moi-Albertine-jaloux-t^

as it were

to its respective

moi-Albertine-jaloux-t^

and

so

are, we recall, not one but several Marcels who are jealous of
"Iwas not one man
that is, of different Albertines:
Albertine?jealous,
were
as
a
it
in which
but
of
the
there
army
only,
march-past
composite
were
men
not
indifferent
men,
men,
jealous men?jealous
passionate
one of whom was jealous
of the same woman"
{F 660). As Marcel
gradually glimpses more and more of Albertine's
"aspects" (without, of
of absolute knowledge),
his
course, ever reaching a definitive moment
of
notion
of
who
she
his
thus
his
and
her,
is,
picture
keeps changing;
or
a
or
a
turns
to
a
out
his
be
for
passion
jealousy
passion
jealousy
more
to
different woman
It
therefore
be
(C 713).
might
appropriate
label the lowest-level selves moi-AWertine-jaloux,
moi-Albertine2-jaloux, and
so on,
of course that Albertinel and Albertine22ire not taken in
providing
sense. Each second-order
self (what I have termed
any strictly objective
a "sub-self)
is made
of
several
third-order
of
these
selves; each
up
emotional
treat as one
towards a person, which we mistakenly
attitude
a plurality of separate attitudes:
extended
"What we
event, comprises
or
our
our
a
to
never
be
love
is
continuous
and
suppose
jealousy
single,
on). There

It is composed
of an infinity of successive
loves, of
each of which
is ephemeral,
although
by their
us
the
of
the
multiplicity
they give
uninterrupted
impression
continuity,
a
illusion of unity" {SW529). Deprivation
affects
horde
of
accordingly
a
to
bereft
attached
horde
of
beloveds:
"at
lovers,
every
departed
there was one more of those innumerable
and humble
'selves'
moment,
our personality
that compose
which was still unaware
of Albertine's
indivisible passion.
different
jealousies,

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100

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

I
and must be informed of it. . . . In order to be consoled
departure
would have to forget, not one, but innumerable
Albertines"
{F579, 645).
has pointed
out, there are some twenty-two
If, as Richard Terdiman
of the phrase "Albertine was dead" in the early portion of The
repetitions
are doubtless
we
to imagine a different Marcel being notified on
Fugitive,
each

occasion.17

in other words, not just


The final distribution
of selves is predicated,
on our attitude towards a given object but on what, amid the pandemic
crisis which characterizes
Proust's world, we take that
epistemological
to
be.
The
indivisible
the Self as a
elementary,
particles of which
object
as (1) a
is composed
thus each be defined
may
disposition
a certain hierarchy
towards a specific object of attention
(2) comprising
of faculties and (3) taking the object in its current, momentary
form.
And it is precisely
the proliferation
of such lowest-level
selves, I would
of the intermediate
selves we
argue, which accounts for the constitution
whole

earlier. The relative proportion


within
each second-order
investigated
as referring
self of, for example,
faith and doubt should be understood
to the respective population
sizes of the croyants and the sceptiques: when
the skeptics outnumber
the believers,
the sub-self will take itself to be a
we
move
As
from
the
atomic
level to the level of highest
up
jaloux.
a series of
nature
of
the
the
individual
genuine
undergoes
complexity,
to Nietzsche's
in "On Truth and
abstractions
(comparable
"metaphors"
our
to a single
in a Nonmoral
loves
reduced
Sense"18),
disparate
our
various
bracketed
into
the
passion,
dispositions
all-encompassing
for a specific
and at last our several
individual,
category of concern
concerns brought
into an overall Self which?
together, in imagination,

Lies

as

if it were

one

and

the

same

over

the

entire

course

of

its

life?dares

to

call itself "I."

3. Proust's

Predicament

result is an extremely
complicated
picture of the soul, one in
not be a strong enough
its multiplicity?"for
would
duplication
term" {F 664)?increases
Where
prodigiously.
primitive
descriptions
viewed each human
being as a vertex, with a single and immutable
trait (Samson's strength, for example);
where doctrines
distinguishing
of conversion
into a line,
the point
(such as that of Paul) extended
a
moment
for
of change in the course of
(solitary)
adding the possibility
a life; where
theorists of the faculties
the moralistes)
(Plato, Augustine,
as
an
in
the
Self
plane psychology,
engaged
entity with depth,
considering
a
is
and
hierarchized
Marcel's
three
fragmented
vertically,
genuinely

The
which

dimensional

account,

accommodating

both

synchronie

and diachronic

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THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 101


in
in space, so there is a psychology
variations.
"As there is a geometry
of a plane psychology would no longer be
time, in which the calculations
For him, as we have
accurate," he writes
(F 751; compare TR 505-6).
of its consecutive
seen, the Self ("fcmoi") is defined as the accumulation
over time (F733).
sedimented
{ulesmoi"),
division
diachronic
of the Self into a set of wholly
discrete
turns
to
out
slices
thus
have
At any
ramifications.
temporal
synchronie
we
are
an
sum
set
of
the
of
moment,
existences,
extremely
large
given
to us, and all of which
indeed, are entirely unknown
many of which,
states

The

in the mind. On waking up, Marcel


is not sure
simultaneously
the moi-Combray,
is, which is to say not sure who he is, whether
the moi-Balbec,
the moi-Donci?res or the moi-Tansonville
(to list them
a man is
a circle around him
"When
in
he
has
chronologically).
asleep,
cohabit

where

he

the chain

of the hours,
of the years, the order of the
the sequence
own
his
bodies"
that is.
hours, years, and worlds,
(SW4):
heavenly
a
to
certain
debt
Henri
is
clear
both
and
Although
Bergson
indirectly
{SG 522), this remains an extremely bold, controversial,
acknowledged
and ingenious move on Marcel's
(and, I think, Proust's) part. The image
of the Self conveyed by the Recherche may be rebarbatively elaborate, but
a wide variety of
it has the merit
of explaining
which
phenomena
cannot
alternative
schemata
of
recidivisms
the
soul,
capture:
simply
as to our
simultaneities
of faith and distrust,
lucid dreams, a confusion
location on waking, and above all the strange power of ancient memo
ries over our present-day
organism. The
is really not memory
involuntary memory
or sound returns us to a former state, we
a set of
have long
which
impressions
is still
up a part of us which
summoning
mind.

sees it, is that


fact, as Marcel
at all. When an odor, texture,
are not
into the light
dragging
since departed
but, instead,
very much present within our
to re-experience
from within a

in this way is it possible


Only
situation we approached
with a radically different
constitution.
as I mentioned
this does
leave us in quite a
Nonetheless,
earlier,
it comes to discovering
a
when
{afortiori communicating)
predicament
a Self beneath
the multiplicity,
the selves. Three
criteria
unity amid
in fact, to be met
if an individual
is to convey her distinctive
need,
essence
to other people.
To begin with,
there is the two-pronged
which has been the substance of our discussion
ontological
requirement
thus far: the Self must be a Self, namely both coherent
and unique,
in
essence at all. The second and third
order for there to be a distinctive
and representational
requirements,
epistemological
respectively, dictate
that one must be able to have sufficient access to one's deepest, darkest
corners to satisfy the
demands
of self-awareness,
and that one
Delphic
must then be able to express one's
in
Now
Marcel
is
findings
language.
to consider
reluctant
of
these
satisfied
in
advance.
any
requirements

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102

LITERARY

NEW

no

Although

one

else

can

as

us

know

as

well

we

can

HISTORY

ourselves?

is the only true experience"


of oneself...
{SG 434)?we
"experience
is incapable
not, in fact, know ourselves particularly well. Our mind
our
out
its
but
also
heart
of
of
{F599)
discerning
only
sounding
cannot
"our intelligence,
however
mechanism:
lucid,
perceive
to
that compose
it" {F 564). In fact our very proximity
elements

do
not
own
the

the
us
a
The
Selfs
relations
from
clear
view.
of
study prevents
gaining
object
will-free
with itself are never entirely disinterested,
(in Schopenhauer's
con
with
libido
unmixed
(in Freud's). Thus Gilberte, Marcel
terms),
cedes wryly, "understood me even less than I understood
(TR2).
myself"
Faint praise indeed for his own perspicacity.
it follows logically that there
And if there is no direct self-knowledge,
no
the self: to
is
about
transmission
of knowledge
straightforward
a Platonic

paraphrase

point,

one

that we

never

share

one

what

nature of the Self makes


"If we are not altogether

still, the contradictory


in the extreme.
problematic

Worse

ourselves

cannot

to

wish

see

the

one

we

love

not

does

have.19

candor
complete
sincere in telling

again,"

for

example,

sincere in saying that we do" {BG 269).


"we would not be a whit more
for Marcel
(and for us), there is a solution to all three issues,
Fortunately
and art; the rest of the present
involving involuntary memory, metaphor,
to an exposition,
and in many cases a hypotheti
paper will be dedicated
cal reconstruction,
of that ingenious
escape route.

II
1. The

"True

Self:

Temperament,

Taste,

and

Style

(i) Involuntary Memory


in the
It is a well-known
fact that the discovery of involuntary memory,
rescues Marcel
in
is
of
the
madeleine
what
tilleul,
dipped
experience
at
and finally allows him, after similar experiences
from the doldrums
less well
It is perhaps
the Guermantes
matin?e, to write his masterpiece.
known exactly how the one leads to the other. Granted,
involuntary
instance?
for
releases hitherto buried memories?of
memory
Combray,
is Marcel's
thus provides
the work, whose material
past life {TR
it offers at
however,
304), with some of its substance. More
importantly,
to the predicament
of the Self, one which needs
least a partial solution
or quasiautobiographical
to be addressed
before any autobiographical
be
What
undertaken.
involuntary memory
gives to the
project may
and

future book is less its content


a
existence:
instance
narrating
and to speak for a multiplicity

of
its form, if not its very condition
as
"I"
to
to
be
unified
able
say
sufficiently
tenses.
of selves in past and present
than

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THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 103


it should be noted
In the first place,
that if involuntary memory
restores lost time, it does so by restoring a lost self. What emerges from
is not really Combray per se but the Marcel who
the cup of tea (5W63)
used to inhabit it (what we have been calling the moi-Combray) and who
its every field and side-street a source of magic
and
used to consider
to
this former "moi" is restored
it is only because
(5W260);
comes to reinhabit
that is, Marcel
its precise
consciousness?because,
and faculties?that
Marcel
of identifications
is able to
organization
rescue the specific details of his childhood
home
from
oblivion.
holiday
He not only hears the church bells and smells the hawthorns
but holds
the beliefs
and feels the desires which went along with
them: "so
wonder

are
complete
cease
to
eyes

these
to see

of

resurrections
the

room

which

the past.
is near
them

. . that
...,

they
they

. . .
even

oblige
force

our
our

to breathe
the air of places which are in fact a great distance
our
to
and
will
choose between
the various projects which
those
away,
self to believe that it is
distant places suggest to us; they force our whole
an
surrounded
is, of course,
{TR 268).20 There
by those places"
nostrils

immediate

and

for self-knowledge.
When
invol
as if it
has
untary memory
long been forgotten,
were "dead" (that is, permanently
erased from the mental
it
record),
holds out the hope that all of the other selves which go to make up the
overall persona?at
least the second-order
selves (like the moi-Combray),
not
if
the innumerable
third-order
selves?may
similarly be resur
a
rected.21 Full self-knowledge
is therefore at least
possibil
hypothetical
ity, even if, at any one instant, we are only privy to a fraction of our soul's
important consequence
restores a "self" which

multiplicity (SG 211).

The epiphanies
far more
crucial to teach
have, however,
something
us. The very fact that we are able to summon up the
ghostly residue of a
the latter and
past self indicates an essential point of continuity between
our present-day
tastes the same as it
If today's madeleine
incarnation.
did thirty years ago, it is because
there must be a part of us at least which
in between
has not changed
times, a permanent aspect underlying all of the
mutable selves. Thus we should not be misled
claim that
by Marcel's
to catalyzing
in addition
the emergence
of this
involuntary memory,
"true self," also provides
essence
into
the
hidden
of
insight
things ("the
essence of things is liberated and
and habitually
concealed
permanent
...
our true self [notre vrai moi]
is awakened"
[TR 264]): what we
is not the essence of cake and tea, eaten and drunk at different
discover
could such a thing deliver the kind of bliss of
periods of our life?how

which Marcel
speaks in Swanns Way
hidden
region of the Self, one which
of
the same tastes
capable
experiencing
of three decades.
"The being within

a
and elsewhere??but
(SW60)
must be changeless
since it is
in the same fashion at a distance
me which
had enjoyed
these

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104

LITERARY

NEW

HISTORY

that
impressions had enjoyed them because
they had in them something
was common
to a day long past and to the present, because
in some way
. . . [was itself] outside time"
and this being
they were extratemporal,
the "being" thus revealed
remains
indistinct
for
{TR 262). Although
is cause enough
for joy.22
now, the mere notion of its existence

(ii) Perspective
he is not normally
on the nature of

Though
elaborate

memory. We may, however,


an aspect of the mind which
sive and consistent manner.

to
known for his reticence, Marcel declines
the "true self" revealed during
involuntary
is
reasonably assume that what is in question

the data of sense in a comprehen


organizes
seems to share with Kant and
For Marcel
with Nietzsche
the idea that the data of sense are entirely unstructured
in themselves?Elstir's
as "the laboratory of a sort of
studio is described
. . . from the chaos that is
new creation of the world
everything we see"
is
human
mind
them intelligible
it
that
the
which
makes
(jBG565)?and
a
set
of
In
them
under
the operation
schemata.23
Proust,
by organizing
two separate aspects. First, as in Kant, there is a
of synthesis comprises
that we all perform
the isolation of
alike, namely
as Marcel
never
in
succeed
"we
should
it,
puts
we
not
some
to
if
did
of
bear
process
identifying objects
reasoning
bring
on them" (GW574). Second, and
process
crucially, there is a prerational
our own subjective arrangement,
one which
in which we each produce
type of structuring
individual
objects;

comes

across when, as for example


in artistic creation, we "cut through
the scheme of things in such a way as to be delivered
from the bondage
of habitual
to
and
enabled
{BG 533).
appearance
perceive
analogies"
Here the way in which we see the world
(and in which we see our selves,
neces
set of transcendentally
is not determined
equally)
by a uniform
our
Leibniz
and
Nietzsche,24
sary "categories" but, following
by
specific
constitution?our
many

"perspective"
as there

arrangements

or
are

that

temp?rament?so
of
pairs
eyes.25

there

may

be

as

It is a striking

characteristic
of Marcel's narrative
that in it young girls
are consistently
most
identified with flowers
in the French
(as
famously
title of the second volume)
and flowers with young girls (as for example
the hawthorns,
is no very good reason for
5W156,197;
J5G68526). There
such an identification.
the
of
share a set of
Granted,
concepts
pair
features,

but

surely

no

more

than

any

other

and girls alike are invested with


onto his surroundings;
indiscriminately

flowers
certain

Gilberte

women

does

acquire

from

their

aura

the Tansonville

by

contact

similar

pair.

the mystique
one might
with

hawthorns

Granted

too,

Marcel
projects
even argue
that

certain

{TR 443;

landscapes,

SW261-62),

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as

THE

PROUSTIAN

SELF

from

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

105

PERSPECTIVE

the sea at Balbec

496; C 81; TR 21627), and


(GW480,
the
?le
de
Mlle/Mme
Bretagne {BG 365-66; GW528
to
Yet
claim
and
that
29).
fleurs are analogous merely because
jeunes filles
one class contracts
its aura from the other would be to put the cart
before
the horse: surely it is because
the two are initially connected
in
so
to
Marcel's mind
that it is possible
for the magic
flow
easily
charge
Albertine

de Stermaria

from

one

to

the

other,

from

as

across

pure

areas of reality contiguous with young


as a necessary
counterpart?necessary,
individual.
particular

conductor.

Of

numerous

the

selects flowers
girls, the perspective
that is, within
the world of a

thus turns out to be


the Self. The simple act
of remembering,
and remembering
from within?not
just the facts of an
as
to another
if it belonged
(dates, times, names, places),
experience
the way in which our tastebuds
person, but the subjective component,
The

related

genuine
impact of involuntary memory
to its unveiling
of a hidden faculty within

in which we put things


the way (more importantly)
information,
the sudden
of a possible
together?offers
identity
tantalizing glimpse
over time, and thus a partial and preliminary
consistent
satisfaction of
the ontological
and epistemological
criteria: involuntary memory
indi
cates the existence of, and provides access to, a unique and diachronically
to the individual
stable self.28 Specific
{contra Kant) but also unitary and
the
is exactly the
Proustian
{contra
Nietzsche),
temperament
enduring
combination
Marcel has been seeking.
a
It also provides
to David Hume's
response
powerful
typically
For
the individual has a
Hume,
dogmatic-slumber-shattering
question.
as a "chain of causes and effects" {HN262), but
type of effective
identity,
receive

possesses

no

inner

coherence,

no

common

element

shared

among

the

"The identity, which we


impressions which make up the mind.
ascribe to the mind of man,
is only a fictitious one," Hume writes (HN
of different perceptions,
259); it is "nothing but a bundle or collection
which succeed each other with an inconceivable
rapidity, and are in a
not
flux"
"there
is
(HN 252);
perpetual
properly
simplicity in it at one
"when I enter most
Hence
time, nor identity in different"
{HN 253).
on some particular
I
into
I
what
stumble
call
intimately
myself,
always
various

perception

or

other....

I can

never

catch

myself...

without

perception.

... When my
are remov'd for any time, as by sound sleep; so
perceptions
am
I
insensible
of
long
myself, and may truly be said not to exist" (HN
is taking esse percipi a
252). Proust
(and others) might well think Hume
little too far here. More
Proust
would
doubtless
agree with
importantly,
that Hume, whether wittingly or unwittingly,
Ricoeur29
is in the above
the very entity whose existence
he denies. For if
passage presupposing
there is no me to be found, who is the /who
is "always" looking for it?
There must surely be a secret site of constancy after all in the "mind of

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106

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

man," a part of ourself which can never be seen since it is always doing
the seeing,
and never at which, we stare.
through which,
something
course
whole
of
one's
the
"one's
life," Marcel
confirms,
"Throughout
sees
are
concern
the
to the
it
of
all
the
time
that
before
egoism
objects
never
in
T
which
but
that
itself
is
takes
them"
self,
perpetually
observing
his je (the
has to wait many years before discovering
(F 628). Marcel
on
in
madeleine
the
is
novel,
early
episode,
chronologically
although
towards the end, in between
situated
the visit to Tansonville
and the
seem
climactic Guermantes
it would
matin?e)', and as for David Hume,
that he never

did

so.

(iii) Style
Now
that involuntary memory
has sketched
the outline
of the true
self, all that remains is to fill in its specific details, to give a content to the
form.

Since

the

as we

temperament,

have

seen,

cannot

be

perceived

its existence, but can give few


memory may
directly?involuntary
hints as to its nature?in
order to register
the latter we need to work
we project
to the
back from
its effects,
from
the template
upon
indifferent material
of our life and loves, the "negative" of our personal
to be "developed."
To take one
puts it, just waiting
ity, as Marcel
indicate

our various choices of partner shed light on the temperament


example,
to us, been making
which has, unbeknownst
the decisions
all the time:
to
"If . . .Albertine
be
the
said
echo
of
old original
might
something
a
that
is
because
certain
the type
Gilberte,
similarity exists, although
women
we
a
all
between
the
evolves,
love,
successively
similarity that is
due to the fixity of our own temperament,
which chooses them....
They
these

are,

women,

of

product

our

an

temperament,

an

image,

inverted

a negative
of our sensibility"
(BG 647). Lest we think he is
projection,
an
to
shared
trait
Marcel
referring
by the two women,
objective
on
to
out
how
of
minimal
the
goes
immediately
point
significance
or
traits
is
of
that
's
Albertine's
soft
Gilberte
hands, say,
(even
objective
dark eyes) when set beside the imaginary aura with which we endow the
Gilbertes
and Albertines
of this world. In fact it is precisely because
there
or
is nothing
about
actual
lover?a
any potential
inherently
special
source,
becomes

I had
project
is not
emotions

at times,
so

anxiety?that

the

. . . that when
we are in love with
long ago
a state of our own
soul; that consequently

the worth

of
a

investment

subjective

visible.

clearly

guessed
on to her

which

of exquisite

the

perfectly

woman

but

ordinary

the
girl

a woman

we

simply

the

thing
important
and
the
that
state;

of the
profundity
arouses
in us can enable

us

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to bring

to

THE

the

PROUSTIAN

SELF

of our

surface

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

some

consciousness

of

107

PERSPECTIVE

the

innermost

parts

of our

being

....

(BG 563-64)
...

we

end

nothing,

by noticing

something

that,

after

all

those

vain

endeavours

which

have

led

to

solid subsists, [namely] what it is that we love. (GVT529)

the most perspicuous


however, which provides
a
to elucidate
temperament,
allowing us to work
back from the latter's effects
(in the case at hand, from the finished
cause
to
their
life,
(FLA 227). Just as, in ordinary
postulated
product)
what we "discover" in objects is only what we have put there in the first
for those in search of
result which may be disappointing
place30?a
a
la v?rit? subjective?so
for
those
who
seek
is
but
fact,
godsend
objective

It is artistic creation,
method
through which

that which a writer appears to see in things turns out to be


or
less, than the gleam of his or her own
nothing
nothing
in [Bergotte's]
back.
Thus
"every fresh beauty
bouncing
projections
buried at the heart of a thing and
work was the little drop of Bergotte
here is
from it" (BG 170). Marcel's
which he had distilled
wording
sense
a
a
in
which
there
is
also
but
little
ambivalent,
genuine
perhaps
from
of his
is
the
fictional
truths
world
entirely
extracting
Bergotte
creation: we identify with one side of the mind what we have just
with the other
concocted
(see SW 61), so that what we see is simulta
of a
is reminded
and
"true"
"false," real and imaginary. One
neously
seems
scene in the second volume
to
it
beautiful
(BG 100)?included,
in literature

more,

which Marcel's
mother
me, purely for its symbolic value?in
places
shells on the sea-bed so that Marcel may find them as he dives. Creation
and discovery come together.
of our true self,
the detailed
If, then, we wish to disclose
composition
we can do little better
our own writing
from an
than to approach
the way in which Marcel considers
outsider's position, which is precisely
it
in the Figaro (F
his Martinville
is
when
finally published
steeples piece
to Marcel, how
to
is
GW
and
which
even, according
770; compare
132)
the

great

nineteenth-century

novelists?glorious

failures

one

and

all?

to their own creations.

their books,"
responded
They "somehow botched
as
were
at once
work
he ventures,
themselves
"but, watching
though they
a new form of
workman
and judge, derived from this self-contemplation
beauty, exterior and superior to the work itself (C 207). The prefaces of
or the
the Com?die Humaine
drafted post hoc, are a
Rougon-Macquart,
testament

to what

their

authors have learned


(about them
respective
a
rather
reliable
than
selves, presumably)
by writing them,
guide to what
far from describing
the reader is about to encounter;
the contents of the
opus at hand, they paint the glowing portrait of a putative future effort
which the recently accomplished
process has, perhaps, made possible.

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108

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

The view of art implied here is, of course, highly formalist


in nature.
It suggests that it is not the choice of subject matter
that counts but the
in reflecting power and not in the
index of refraction,
"genius consisting
intrinsic quality of the scene reflected"
(BG 176). Even if an artist wishes
to create in the autobiographical
he or she can do
mode,
therefore,
no
a
to express his
has
"an
without
artist
need
self-portrait:
painting
to
for
in
his
work
the
latter
reflect
its
thought directly
quality" (GW568).
come through willy-nilly
in the style, as
in
"le
and
else?all
Bergotte's
Bergotte,"
everything
the factual information
about lineage, education,
and
losses?is
loves,
mere
one can communicate
is not worth
accidens. Anything
directly
one
can
to
Indeed
communicate
(GW540).
communicating
anything
one
can
know
well
fall
Nietzsche
(as
oneself, anything
immediately, may
His

or her essential
for

like every living being,

Man,

will

does

into the same category:

thought)

that

nature

instance

to consciousness

rises

and worst

part?for
consciousness
does

thinks continually without

is only
the smallest
part
this conscious
thinking

only
not

of all

knowing
this?the

it; the thinking


most

superficial

takes

theform
of words....
but
existence
individual

[Now]

to man's
to
rather
really belong
. . .
...
or herd
nature.
in the world
his social
the best will
Consequently,
given
to "know ourselves,"
of us will always
in becoming
conscious
each
succeed
only
. . .
our actions
are
of what
is not
individual
but
all
"average."
Fundamentally,
no
and
there
is
individual;
infinitely
altogether
incomparably
unique,
personal,
no
of that. But as soon as we
translate
doubt
them
into consciousness
longer
they
seem to be?1

true self, in other words, cannot be expressed in but only revealed


It is not just perspective
but first and foremost
style;32
through language.
contre
which is why,
Sainte-Beuve and with Mallarm?,
the writerly persona
is more
than the empirical
human being.
for
authentic
(Of Bergotte,
...
was
his
writes
"in
that
books
he
[BG
really himself
example, Marcel
of words, one is able to discover
the true locus of
180].) As a musician
The

in "that song, different


from
coherence
and uniqueness
within oneself
strain
those of other singers, similar to [one's] own . . . that distinctive
its subject it remains identical with
the sameness of which?for
whatever
that compose
the permanence
of the elements
[one's]
itself?proves
soul" (C 342-43). And one is finally able to communicate?to
oneself as
as to others?one's
well, potentially,
idiosyncratic view of the world, thus
the
final
that of representation.
difficulty,
resolving
...

Style
impossible,
the world
would

is the

revelation,

the qualitative
to each
appears

remain

of

for

ever

the

which

and conscious
methods
be
would
by direct
in
the
of
the
fashion
which
difference,
uniqueness
one
no art,
of us, a difference
if there were
which,
secret

of

every

individual.

Through

art

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alone

we

are

PROUSTIAN

able

to know what
from ourselves,
to emerge
.. .Thanks
is not the same as our own.

which
only,

our

many

as

worlds

see

we

own,

that world
are

there

All

be

transmitted

to mistress,

lover

from

disciple,

we are
reality which
even
in talk,
from

of

residuum

the

artists,

we

and

by art,
of
the

that

voyage
universe

which,
be

through
that each
with

a Vinteuil;

but

not

the
of

like
intimate

the

... would

universes
Elstir,

art of a Vinteuil

spectrum
and

individuals

common

to externals,

himself
the

one

world

disposal
one
from

different

to

obliged
friend

ineffable

as
the

for

to visit

to leave behind at the


with others only by

strange

men

like

lands

of a hundred
each
these

of

them
we

worlds
know.

to possess

but

do

out
brought
in the colors

exteriorizes

those

never

others,
is; and
really

to

differentiates

which

interest?are

which
of

composition
should
art, we

eyes of another,
that
them
sees,
with

of no

to all and

which

master

from

friend,

something

of an Elstir,

that

to ourselves,

keep

to

us has felt and what he is obliged


qualitatively what each of
threshold of the phrases in which he can communicate
limiting

a universe

of

seeing
at our

have

more

worlds

sees

person
of
instead

to art,

revolve in infinite space. (TR 299)

other than those which

cannot

another

itself

multiply

original

109

PERSPECTIVE

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

SELF

THE

we

which
. . .The

call
true

only
to see the
eyes,
to see the hundred

other

this we

can

fly from

do with
star

to

an
star.

(C343)33
that Proust, who has so far more or less kept company with
Nietzsche,
finally moves beyond him, and, at the same stroke,
while starting from the same premises as does
Marcel.
Nietzsche,
beyond
as we just saw, that a direct, straightforwardly
Proust?first,
expressive
is an "uncon
is impossible; second, that every philosophy
autobiography
to GW402)?
on the part of its writer (BGE6; compare
scious memoir"
same conclusion,
to
and
ends
the
fails
draw
up writing Ecce
surprisingly
too, indulges
Homo, against his "habits" and better judgment.34 Marcel,
the
in self-description;
from his point of view, we should not forget,
It is here

Friedrich

rather
towards literary inspiration
Recherche is the story of his journey
of its results.35 Proust, on the other hand, writes a
than an example
novel.36

in due
between Proust and Marcel
We shall return to the relationship
we should take stock of where we have arrived
course. In the meantime,
the distance which
still remains before we can
in order to determine
as
the
resolve
posed by the former. The chief
Qui suis-je? question
truly
result so far is that the enduring
quality within us is not a desire for
to
a
fact
the sequence of objects of attention,
which
specific,
something
blondes
and brunettes
red-heads
(Mme de Guermantes),
(Gilberte),
nor yet a
to
duchesse
from
attests;
blanchisseuse, eloquently
(Albertine)
a
as
about
which
life
after
in
death,
(such
something
specific
belief
for example,
BG
Marcel cannot make up his mind?see,
SWl,
399, SG
a
we
found
and
TR
C
earlier,
38,
245-46,
524); nor, finally,
(as
project

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110

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

restores "various projects" none of which


is a live
involuntary memory
concern any more).
Instead it is quite simply the way in which we look at
(or smell, or touch, or taste) things: just as what fascinates us in those we
know is their set of qualia, "that essential quality of another
person's
sensations"
is "reality as
(C206), so "our true life," in Marcel's definition,
we have felt it [la r?alit? telle que nous Vavons sentie]" (TR 277). We deduce
its existence

from the phenomenon


and derive
of involuntary memory,
its details by working
backwards
from the effects it produces
(particu
There
still
is, however,
larly in various forms of artistic expression).
us
"indi
may give
Involuntary memory
something
something missing.
an
but it is not, strictly speaking,
and permanent"
identical,
vidual,
to
back
the
and
individual,
identical,
permanent
key passage
self. Going
summons
cited earlier, involuntary memory
up an "being within me"
(TR 262): not the Self in its entirety, but only a tiny part of it, and not
even a part which could ever speak for the whole. We recall that what is
in time is the dominant
taken to be the "moi" of any given moment
to
of
the forefront
consciousness?"the
governing
brought
disposition,
as
class identifies
itself with
the successes
of the commonwealth,"
never
is
consist
which
the perspective,
Nietzsche
puts it (BGE19)?and
ent,

invisible,

and utterly

silent.

2. The Total Self: Aesthetic

Biography

another way by saying that


could state Marcel's
present problem
has intruded, just as it does in the final section of the novel, on his
with the atemporal.
In the shape of his own perspective,
communion
him
the depth he has been looking for all
has
involuntary memory
given
his life; it has also restored to his universe an infinite breadth, made up of
but it has yet to provide
the volume Marcel
other people's
perspectives;
a
vision
of
selves which
his
diachronic
seeks (G501, 83; GW495),
namely
a
axis
three
his
vertical
into
would
new-found
genuine
expand
a
as
mass
him
of
rather
than
dimensional
geometry,
simply leaving
We

Time

chaotic

fragments.

He

knows?has

known,

as

it were,

since

the

first

of rooms "would gradually piece


pages of the novel, when the memories
the
of
my ego [les traits originaux de mon
together
original components
a large number
of
his Self as a whole
moi]n (SW b)?that
comprises
not
is
how
these
sub-selves.
What
does
know
he
layers
layered
temporally
or may be made
to connect. This is the objection
connect,
posed by
one whose
two-dimen
dialectical
into Marcel's
Time,
incorporation
whose
and
sional schema will finally yield the long-desired
volume,
on
once
turn
notion
of
it
the
will
out,
solution,
crucially
again depends
perspective.

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THE

SELF

PROUSTIAN

As we

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

saw in the previous

111

PERSPECTIVE

takes the rough


practice
in
fills
the particulars,
and
by involuntary memory
a
to
the
examine
us,
detour,
aspect
enduring
by
sophisticated
enabling
the outside. Now style is, to repeat, a
of our personality?its
style?from
of
there may well be an element
relational (or synthetic)
concept;

outline

section,

aesthetic

delivered

to the way in which


the chosen
as
if
the
it
is
almost
Indeed,
ordering
so that, given a certain
determines the process of inclusion and exclusion,
(say a ship's mast,
(say Elstir's) and a certain starting-point
perspective
would
BG 567) the term of comparison
(a steeple)
simply force itself
no
in
her
the
individual
say in the matter.
upon
question,
leaving
she necessarily projects a similar
the artist turns her attention,
Wherever
so to speak.
network of associations?analogous
analogies,
we
are
term
whether
The key
here,
dealing with literature or with
involved, but priority
are put together.
components
selection

is given

of involun
is metaphor, the counterpart
account)
(in Marcel's
painting,
two
In
(TR 289-90, 273).
tary memory
metaphor,
objects which may well
a
a fish) suddenly find
or
no
and
essential kinship
bear little
(like
steeple
a
that has almost
with
themselves
connected,
type of appropriateness
to do with
the
the objects
of course,
themselves?beyond,
nothing
one may draw between
resemblance
any pair of items?and
superficial
to do with the controlling
It is perfectly
almost everything
perspective.
correct to say, as does G?rard Genette
followed by Paul de Man, that the
is a largely
between
the two terms in a Proustian metaphor
relationship
seen
Yet it is
from
the
of
view
of
truth.37
one,
arbitrary
objective
point
that the yoking together
precisely because of this objective arbitrariness
ideas can convey so exactly a subjective truth, namely the
of two distinct
And it is also
way in which an individual mind
arranges experience.38
artful nature of the
thanks to the more
active, more
creative, more
that we are ultimately
able to import a unity into the
faculty in question
Self as a whole.
or temperament,
I have hitherto
What
been calling the perspective
as we have seen, is also the source of an individual
and which,
style,
could just as well be termed the unifying or synthesizing
faculty within
a set of disparate
the Self. Its specific capacity is the power to organize
elements

into

a coherent

whole,

even

when

these

are

the

various

aspects

a single human
Albertine
exist in my
being?"although
might
. . . subdivided
a
in
with
of
of time,
accordance
series
fractions
memory
a
in
made
her
mind,
her,
(F
my
reestablishing
unity
single person"
even when they number more
in
than the two held together
693)?and
a metaphor.
a genuine
True, the unifier does not operate
by finding
of

common

denominator

among

the

elements,

an

actual

site

of

consist

that such
ency, but from all we have seen thus far it seems highly unlikely
a common denominator
could ever in fact exist. For want of being able

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112

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

to discover a harmony
amid a conglomeration
of particles,
then, the
one.
in the
unifier
invents
consists
While
involuntary memory
simply
a
two
of
real
internal
the
between
stimuli,
affinity
passive reception
onto
artistic gaze
of
involves an active
order
unrelated
imposition
of perception.
I reproached
"Sometimes
for thus
myself
fragments
as
a
in
notes
work of art,"
Marcel
my friend
considering
taking pleasure
de Saint-Loup,
"that is to say in regarding
the play
as
of all the parts of his being
ordered by a general
idea
harmoniously
from which they depended
but of which he was unaware"
(BG 432-33).39
Marcel's
becomes
clearer when we consider
the way in
comparison
which we respond to an artwork, whether
verbal or visual. Our interpre
tation of its constituent
the little patch of yellow wall in the
parts?say,
corner of Vermeer's
bottom
View ofDelfl, or the mysterious
right-hand
in reference

to Robert

at
of lowly Mme Verdurin
into the Princesse
de Guermantes
apotheosis
the end of Proust's Recherche?consists
in regarding
them all as part of a
somewhat
single overall plan, assigning each an identical source which,
we
as
or
as
a
to
refer
the
"author"
of staring
"artist."
result
When,
loosely,
new
harder at the canvas or reading further in the novel, we encounter
we tend to understand
to that same
them in reference
elements,
not
monadic
if
will
fit
within
the latter's
explanatory
principle;
they
we
we
an
it
after
revise
What
end
extended
scope,
up with,
accordingly.
va-et-vient between
fact and interpretation,
is a single cause?Marcel's
for as many of the local effects as possible.40
"general idea"?responsible
Two

right away. The first is that any


certain
elements
and deprivileges
necessarily
interpretation
privileges
others,
omitting,
"forcing, adjusting,
abbreviating,
inventing
padding,
[and] falsifying," as Nietzsche
puts it (GM 111:24). Some aspects of a
since they
work become
virtually invisible under a particular
reading,
consequences

neither

confirm

nor

should

weaken

be noted

it, and

so do

not

even

bear

the

appearance

for our "author" (that is, for our


choices; others, embarrassing
as nonessential
to
be
if
have
overlooked
theory), may simply
properties,
are
not outright mistakes.
there
which
receive
features
Conversely,
and there are also some which have, so to
attention,
disproportionate
of artistic

the lines." Secondly,


the figure of the
speak, to be read "between
"author" is invariably to some extent a regulative fiction, not just because
it is very likely to differ from the empirical writer but also, and more
for
importantly, because we can never be quite sure of having accounted
a detail which
all of its effects. It is always possible
that we have neglected
our understanding
at least to some extent,
would modify,
of the
as
a
we
are
whole. Even if
it would
composition
largely right, therefore,
be foolhardy of us to consider our interpretation
definitive. And yet we
do not have any choice; in order to make sense out of the data before us,
in order to see them at all as a set of data, grouped
together and cut off

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THE

PROUSTIAN

from

SELF

their fellows

rational

principle

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

113

PERSPECTIVE

in other texts or canvases, we need


inclusion and exclusion,
namely

of

to conjure up a
the "author" or

"artist."

therefore, Marcel views Robert as if the latter were a Holbein,


When,
to him an extrinsic source of intentional
he implicitly attributes
design
and thus substantially
falsifies not only Robert's actual nature but even
own mind. The only manner
in Marcel's
in which
the way he appears
as
can picture
the motley
attitudes
of
Marcel
and
Robert
acts, aspects,
a
unified
system is by imagining?erroneously?that
part of
they all
as they would,
serve a single purpose,
ideally, if he were the protagonist
is aware that in itself
of a story or the subject of a portrait.41 Marcel
life holds no
of innumerable

up of discrete
consistency,
being made
and governed
force,
by no external
profusion
but he is still charmed by the possibility of forcing it into fictional
shape.
And itmay well be that he also realizes the implication
for his own case.
That is, itmay well be the desire to introduce an artificial structure into
his own life, as he has into that of Robert
and of Albertine,
which
Robert's
instants

such

the form of his third major piece of writing


the
(counting
as
we
are
first
the
memoir
the
and
prose
poem
Steeples
the project he begins at the very end of the
reading as the second),
as "life . . .
Recherche and which he describes,
with eager anticipation,
.
.
. r?alis?e dans un UvreY
realized within
the confines of a book [la vie
determines

Martinville

as his
the fictional autobiography
(TR 507). IfMarcel chooses
final genre,
in it a golden
it is perhaps because he recognizes
nity (although, as we shall soon see, not the only opportunity)
own existence
into a work of art (ET 436), to bring all of his
sub-selves finally into alignment,
to produce what one might

third and
opportu
to turn his
selves and
call the

total Self.
"How happy would he be," Marcel
continues
"the
enthusiastically,
man who had the power to write such a book! ... he would have ... to
it like a discipline,
build
it up like a church,
follow it like a
accept
a
new
create
medical
...,
it
like
world"
(TR507). Once again, as
regime
in Marcel's
earlier remark about Bergotte, we notice a strict alternation
between
of discovery
the language
("accept," "follow") and that of
invention
ideal work has to be a mixture
For
Marcel's
("build," "create").
of sincerity and fancy, whim and necessity.
It may well be an accurate
account
as
can be seen, a faithful
of as many
of
the
Self
aspects
own
of
traits
in
Marcel's
those
of his protagonist;
but
reproduction
for reasons spelled out above, be forced to attenuate,
and even exclude some, and above all to add in that
simplify, exaggerate,
element
which
is their mutual
The
purely imaginary
interdependence.
a
we
or
no
slices
of
bear
little
Self,
recall,
myriad synchronic-diachronic

Marcel

intrinsic

will also,

relation

to one another,

either

of continuity

(since

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the world

is

114

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

anew every instant) or of causality


recreated
(since new lowest-order
the outside
selves are generated
from
incursions
by unpredictable
world, and not from internal sources) ; they only begin to gain pattern
to an entity outside of their number,
ing and legitimation
by reference
an agent who might with singularity of purpose
have willed all of the
events

separate
a causal

and

states. That
between

any given

relationship
such a relationship

envisage

to detect
itmay not be possible
we
of
selves,
may perhaps
pair
to their common
from both

is, while
leading

product.

to one of
in question will in all instances conform
The relationship
three separate schemata.
In the first, the present-day
agent affirms, or at
least is taken to affirm, each past avatar as an indispensable
step on the
to
or
we
not be
the
unified
he
she
is
could
entity
path
becoming
today;
who

we

now

are,

at

least

to Nietzsche's

according

"eternal

recurrence"

(LL 150-69), unless we had lived exactly the life we have, right
to
in a typical fictional
down
the last detail. Thus
the
autobiography,
character's apparently haphazard
thoughts, feelings, and actions start to
doctrine

make

or must

sense,

seen

be

to make

is the

sense?such

for

challenge,

of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?as


necessary
example,
on the way to fame, fortune, and/or
A second
staging-posts
happiness.
less stringent assumptions
about the distinction
model, making
(or lack
essential and accidental
the years of
features, presents
thereof) between
as ultimately
in relation
to today's persona,
incidental
but
wandering
as

necessary

a measure

of

the

distance

traveled;

that

necessary,

is,

in

to a narrative whose purpose


is to stage the transformation
from
even
a
to
to
man"
between
"artist,"
suggest
"young
perhaps
continuity
them (as against the clean break implied by the traditional confession).

relation

"The

picture

repudiate,"
from
the

of
Elstir
common

what

we

explains
elements

were

at

an

to Marcel,
of

earlier

life,

stage

it is a

"for
.

proof.
. extracted

...

we

must

. . that

we

something

not
have,
that

transcends

them" (BG 606).


most
and
for the case at hand, the narrator may
Finally
interestingly
or her former selves simply because
of
the
his
importance
acknowledge
or
are
her
also
his
sediments
selves,
present
they
synchronic-diachronic
as
to
within
the
mind
leaders
remaining
deposed
perhaps,
waiting,
as
return to power. The various moi, in other words, function
neither
nor as ingredi
earlier stages of giovanile errore, subsequently
overcome,
ents which are all required for the production
of a successful
life, but
narrator
instead as integral and persisting
of
is
who
the
aspects
today.
the third
Proust, naturally enough, offers an example of (among others)
rather like the Nietzsche
of Ecce
Marcel,
type of construction.
Although
sickness
ends
and
Homo,
(TR525)
(GW641) as
up embracing
suffering
not
to
his
narrative
beneficial
his
will
be able to
vocation,
having proven

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THE

SELF

PROUSTIAN

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

115

PERSPECTIVE

sense of the past as a whole


causal
in such a straightforwardly
make
to incorporate
manner.
abandoned
it will have
Instead
ostensibly
of his earlier efforts,
incorporates
fragments
just as Vinteuil
positions,
than timid essays, exquisite but very slight,
which
"had been no more
now being revealed
beside the triumphal and consummate
masterpiece
to me"
The
total
Self, like one of
(C 335), into the glorious
septet.
will have to
Vinteuil's
[C208-9])
(orWagner's
compositions,
symphonic
a
not
of
aesthetic,
suggest
organization
logical, principle
strictly
holding
among its diverse constituent
parts; as in "those finished works of art...
it
in which every part in turn receives from the rest a justification which
on

will gain
them in turn" (GW 737), the separate components
a
to
not
value
system against which
by conforming
preexisting
legitimacy
to a whole which, taken
all are measured
alike but for their contribution
together, they form (LL 229).42
confers

Itmight be objected
that although
the process involves illusion, there is
to
like a new Galatea,
the
stop
nothing
product nonetheless,
achieving
to stop the second nature, in
the status of authentic
existence?nothing
a first.43 Just as a literary or artistic
Nietzsche's
becoming
expression,
an unchanging
a
certain
inner
physical presence,
masterpiece
acquires
to
than
the
reader
be
discovered
which
is
there
created) by
(rather
unity
a chemical
or viewer; just as, to return to our earlier scientific metaphor,
into a new and abiding compound;
reaction forges disparate
substances
to be
the total Self is something
which needs
so, one might
argue,
transcends
created from its parts, but which subsequently
them, leaving
a
new fact to add to the
their dispersion
far behind
it and becoming
present sum of facts in the world. Why should we not be able to take the
result of the fiction and apply it to our actual life? Why should the total
and
Self it conveys not be who we really are at that point, a genuine
our
answer
to
is,
every aspect? The
begin with, that
abiding synthesis of
are not just heterogeneous
but also, in many
aspects
antithetical:
hence
the love for Gilberte
which
resurfaces, we
amid a generalized
The Self, to repeat, is really more
disaffection.
physical than a chemical
compound.
of a harmonious
the production
Secondly and more importantly,
these

cases,
recall,
like a

total
to some extent on narrative structure.44 It depends,
Self always depends
that is, on the fact that the story can end, that the various narrative
strands tend towards a stable, non-narrative
entity which stands beyond
them, in a separate temporal and ontological
space, as their invisible
to
tend in part
goal. Fictional
autobiographies
give ideological form to
the life they depict, subsuming many of its diverse constituents
under a
state. If, for example, Mme Verdurin were to write
single culminating
such a work,
with Marcel's,
she would
doubtless
contemporaneous
interpret

every

small

success

of her

original

salon,

and

even

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perhaps

116

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

some

of its failures, as essential moments


in her quest to become
the
de Guermantes.
But she would
Princesse
only be able to do so in
in the light of the grand
in Time
d?nouement described
retrospect,
as the lowly Mme Verdurin,
At
the
she
could
time,
scarcely
Regained.
at the time, she
have predicted
it; had she written a projective memoir
seen
new
have
herself
de
the
Baronne
(say)
might perhaps
becoming
or she might
to remaining
have resigned herself
the
forever
a
of
in
second-rate
either
the
total
Self
case,
salon;
patronne
resulting
would have had no abiding validity. And things can still change
in her
as
a
old
of
the
of
social
result
dissolution
the
life?perhaps,
gradual
Charlus,

order,
which
of

she will find herself back among the ranks of the commoners?in
case she will doubtless
be forced to reinterpret
the very same
in an

events

entirely

new

manner

set

again.45

are able to give a single set of events a pair of distinct


it cannot be the case that either interpretation
is the
interpretations,
correct one.46 To say of a given arrangement
that it is the total Self, to be
able to claim, without
that one is and can only be that
reservation,
no
a
and
involves
of disbelief.
considerable
other,
person
suspension
seems to become
aware of the fact when, on meeting
Mlle de
Marcel
a
as
to
he
his
life
(TR 502),
Saint-Loup
picture
begins
complex
Now

if we

not,
geometrical
figure with her as its central node: "Was she not?are
one of those star-shaped
the
of human beings??like
indeed,
majority
in a forest where roads converge
crossroads
that have come, in the forest
as in our lives, from the most diverse
the
quarters?" "Are not, indeed,
of
Marcel
he
human
could
knows
(21? 502):
beings?"
easily pick
majority
a configura
to base his configuration,
another character around whom
as a result. Even if
tion which would doubtless
look somewhat different
we do not consider
act
the multifarious
the
which
squeezes
together
a falsification
eo ipso, even if we claim that its
selves and sub-selves
a reality for us, we must
surely allow that
actually becomes
product
in
unconditional
faith in the unique fitness of the latter is only possible
a
we
turn
if
into
The
character.
that is,
ourselves
literature?only
possible,
in the fictional
total Self, as constructed/conveyed
may
autobiography,
in all its details
thus be honest
(at least all of those it knows about), but
in its most basic
it must at the same time be profoundly
dishonest
presupposition.
There
that amid the generalized
chance
is, mind
you, an excellent
a
of
is in operation:
kind
different
(or higher
level)
dishonesty
honesty
an honesty,
in
to
in the
Selfhood
relation
the
precisely,
deception.
Recherche would be not just an illusion but a lucid illusion, one among an
in the novel. And it is here, at last, that we return
number
extraordinary
to our point
propositions

of departure.
For what enables us to hold two contradictory
feat which, at first sight, would
simultaneously?a
simply

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THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 117


in fact, nothing
other than the fragmenta
appear to be impossible?is,
draws on three separate components
tion of the Self. Lucid self-delusion
and
in the mind, first a part which sits at the forefront of consciousness
a
as
second
which
individual
for
the
entire
"I,"
(the "self);
part
speaks,
does the deceiving
(the "delusion"); and third a part which registers the
event

is largely per
the second
function
"lucidity").47 In Proust,
Thus
the
ever-watchful
will.
the fact that
the
third
by intellect,
by
a
are
we
we
to
desire
able
believe
(for instance)
separation while also
a
we
not
between
in
Marcel's
do
view,
indicates,
discrepancy
realizing
more
and
volont?
and
the
the
sagacious
ever-hopeful
ironically-named
in me was aware of
intelligence. "It is true," he tells us, "that something
is vain if
this role that beliefs play: namely, my will; but its knowledge
in
one's intelligence
and one's sensibility continue
these last
ignorance;
are sincere when they believe that we are anxious to forsake a mistress
to
(the

formed

whom our will alone knows that we are still attached"


(BG 596). And the
same mechanism
allows Marcel, or at least the part of him which
thinks
to imagine
in language,
in
that he can be a writer and also remain
the
society, in spite of the fact that a preverbal aspect of him recognizes
conflict: "I toldmyself this, but Iwas well aware [je sentais bien] that itwas
not true" (F772).
in the
It should, I hope, be clear that the two types of fragmentation
Self have, like the c?t? deM?s?glise and the c?t? de Guermantes toward the
come
end of the novel
somewhat
(^891; TR 3-4, 502-3),
improbably
here.
Self
is
of
Marcel's
divided
synchronically
together
capable
holding
two separate images ("stills") of Albertine,
taken by separate segments of
the diachronically
ancy

and

imagining

divided
a.

Self, at once
connection.

He

in view, perceiving
knows

the

their discrep

two

are,

strictly

even from the point of view of subjective


the same woman,
speaking,
truth; yet he indulges in the fantasy that they are. In a similar way (and
is able to bring the power of
perhaps it comes to the same thing) Marcel
to bear on his own fractured subjectivity, to forge an
lucid self-delusion
fictional unity out of the endlessly proliferating
moi.
acknowledgedly
not

3. An Evolving

Self: the Bio-Aesthetic

The story does not quite end there, however. Marcel's


to
encomium
. . . realized
on
a
note
the aesthetic
of
ends
"life
caution:
biography
within
the confines of a book! How happy would he be, I thought,
the
man who had the power to write such a book! [But] What a task awaited
him! ... In long books of this kind there are parts which there has been
time only to sketch, parts which, because
of the very amplitude
of the
no
never
architect's
will
doubt
be
How
many great
plan,
completed.

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118

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

remain unfinished!"
cathedrals
(TR 508). There are in fact very good
reasons why the "edifice" of the Self may never be completed.
First of all
course of
the metaphor),
affect
it
the
(to continue
changes may
during
a
an
be
its building:
say;
wing may
earthquake,
irreparably damaged
by
or the nave may be enhanced
of priceless Rembrandts. We
by a donation
fall in love, or learn an unpleasant
truth
may, to speak less figuratively,
of a
about a friend, in which case, thanks to the addition or subtraction
our
to
has
the
overall
of
Self
be
radically
single element,
shape
a part of it but
reconceived.
Indeed,
aspects which
already formed
on the appear
so minor
as to escape attention
seemed
take
suddenly
ance of cornerstones.
a
man
of
the
his youth, of a
story
Imagine
writing
time when he was so in love with a certain woman
that he spurned
to meet others. He is unlikely
to list the people he
several opportunities
did not meet;

their number

is legion, many have been forgotten,


and
were
is
that
the
sake
of
for
which they
sacrificed.
counts, after all,
But should that man later meet one of them, fall in love with her, make
in Paris . . . then that man, of course, would be Marcel.
her his prisoner
love for Gilberte,
Because
of his lingering
he passes up a visit to the
a
Bon temps whose niece,
is in town (BG 277);
Simonet,
young Albertine
reason
to
at
the only
mention
them
all is that he knows the
he bothers
encounter will gain a retrospective
from later
relinquished
significance
what

events.

In order to impose the kind of narrative unity one desires upon one's
to work back,
life, one needs, as with any story, an ending from which
to understand
from which
the meaning
of the several events contained
it. Confessional
within
narratives
call on exactly that structuring
prin
or
that
marks a
the moment
of conversion
implying
ciple, by stating
a "death."48 Even in Proust
rupture in life so radical as to be considered
in
there is an Augustinian
the
the epiphanic
final
pages,
atmosphere
a
life
followed
removal
from
GW 428).
SG518;
(see
by
being
experience
there

Nonetheless,

clarity never

ultimate
hiatus

in

existence

also

seems

to

arrives. After
may

well

be

be

all,
an

an

awareness

that

the

the type of event which


internal

one,

time

marks

re-evaluation

of

a
of

turns certain
data (say Albertine's
known activities) which
preexisting
one
into crucial
details
of
Albertine's
remarks)
stray
half-forgotten
(say
evidence
(5G275; C107; compare G 205).
vast
Instead of a cathedral,
then, one should visualize an inordinately
recesses
as
case
so
in
to
full
of
hidden
and
resist
any
labyrinth,
huge
at any given instant: "no matter at what moment
overall apprehension
we consider
it, our total soul has only a more or less fictitious value, in
of
the
rich
spite
inventory of its assets, for now some, now others are
unrealizable"
some corners

(SG 211; compare BG 141).


which always remain hidden

there are
indeed,
Perhaps,
from us (SG 646). Two of

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THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 119


that life is nothing
Marcel's most treasured principles
are, we remember,
but a sequence of errors (F775) and that we can only ever find what we
are looking for when we no longer want it (BG 58), so that full self
is granted us, if at all, only on the verge of death. The moral
knowledge
of the story, as Proust succinctly suggests in the Carnet de 1908, is simply
that "in real life, novels do not conclude."49 Or to put it another way, "we
do not sufficiently reflect that the life of the writer does not come to an
. . .was
end with this particular work . . .my love for Albertine
already
of
the
in
the
midst
in
love
for
inscribed
Gilberte,
my
happy days of
which, for the first time, I had heard the name of Albertine
pronounced
that this
and her character described
suspecting
by my aunt, without
the
and would one day overshadow
seed would develop
insignificant
whole of my life" (TR 311-12).
Life in literature is not, in short, a serious option: one would have to
in an endless
series of revised
issue one's fictional
autobiography
until one's
remain in a state of suspended
animation
editions, and/or
death. There
is, however, a second possibility. Yes, "life realized within
the condi
the confines of a book" would be a wonderful
thing?note
we do
the relevant passage?but
tional mood Marcel uses throughout
not have to go quite
that far, since life itself is already literature
if one only knows how to see it: "Real life, life at last
(indicative mood),
which can be
laid bare and illuminated?the
only life in consequence
is in a sense all
said to be really lived?is
literature, and life thus defined
in ordinary men no less than in the artist. But most
the time immanent
men do not see it because
they do not seek to shed light upon it. And
encumbered
with
therefore
their past is like a photographic
darkroom
the intellect has
remain useless because
innumerable
negatives which
not developed
them" (TR 298-99). Real life, that is, is inherently literary,
even for the inartistic, who are merely
not aware of its existence
at a
to
In
MP
level of themselves
subterranean
order
(see
164-65).
bring it
into the light, we do not have to channel our life into writing: on the
literature
into our life, "developing"
contrary, we need only introduce
the

lie dormant
in the mind
and thus, in
images which
with
the
Pindaric
and
invoked
Nietzsche
by
compliance
injunction
we
we
are.
are
Marcel alike (GS270; 5G368),
For
who
already
becoming
a

various

set

of

disparate

elements;

whether

or

not

we

then

become

a whole

of

on the success of our attempts


at self
they are parts depends
on the measure
of artistry we import into our existence
unification,
(see
LL 179-80).
the ultimate answer turns out to
Instead of life in literature,
be life as literature.50 Instead of the aesthetic biography, what one might

which

term

And
expect,

the

bio-aesthetic.

the key model


but Odette?or

here is not Marcel or even Charlus, as one might


rather Mme Swann, for it is in the later stages of

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120

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

to her dame en rose, "Miss Sacripant" and Odette de


life (subsequent
that
she
discovers, and invents, her personal
Cr?cy phases)
style. "Odette
or invented, a physiognomy
had at length discovered,
of her own, an
unalterable
'character,' a 'style of beauty,' and on her uncoordinated
.
.
. had now set this fixed
features
type, as it were an immortal
"Odette's body seemed now
(BG 264-65).
youthfulness,"
judges Marcel
to be cut out in a single silhouette wholly confined within a 'line' which
. . .was able to
(BG 264
rectify, by a bold stroke, the errors of nature"
is she, in fact, that she is still immediately
65). So successful
recognizable
matin?e: "Only
years later, unlike any other guest at the Guermantes
. . . had not
The
(TR 366-67).
perhaps Mme de Forcheville
changed"
reason
counts both as discovery
that Odette's
achievement
and as
invention hinges, as we saw earlier, on the two senses of the word "style."
As a perspective,
it is a genuinely
existing quantity which Odette must
first locate; as a specific, externally
visible organization
of her various
on that
"uncoordinated
it is a work of
features," predicated
perspective,
art and indeed artfulness,
nature.
the
of
Using
correcting
imperfections
her own body as the material
for an organic, extratextual
"artwork," and
is the
rigorously
obeying a law that she herself has set (BG 293), Odette
her

the dandy in the Recherche. And in all of this she obeys


to
dictum, doing the one thing that (in a sardonic allusion
in
he
is
claims
and
he
the
"needful,"
10:42)
way
suggests:
precisely
of

very figure
Nietzsche's
Luke
One
mass

of

is needful.?To

thing
second

nature

removed?both
that
made

sublime_In

the

constraint
this

Whether
it was

only

"give
been

times through

not

could

has

removed

be

added;

to one's
character.
style"
there a piece
of original
there

needful:
be

by

that
means

it has

large
been

the ugly
and

reinterpreted
evident
it becomes

is finished,
the work
end, when
taste governed
of a single
and formed
everything
or bad
taste was
is less important
than one
good

large
might

and

how
small.

suppose,

if

taste!51

single
and

perfection

a human
of

a
has

been

the

constraint

nature

long practice and daily work at it. Here

is concealed;

natures

Itwill be the strong and domineering


such

. . .Here

this

or

under

law of

should
attain
being
that poetry
and art.

that enjoy their finest gaiety in


their

satisfaction

own.

. . . For

with

himself,

one

thing
whether

is
it

(GS 290)

Proust does not have Marcel


he cannot?but
the end
say it?perhaps
to the twofold problem
of the Self, is not
goal of the quest, the solution
not metaphor,
and not even la vie r?alis?e dans un
involuntary memory,
not
livre (Proust's novel is, after all,
the autobiographical
fiction Marcel
is a further stage to be reached beyond
has in mind). There
it, namely
the process

of giving

ing, concealing,

style to one's

foregrounding,

in everyday
character
even inventing elements

life, reinterpret
de toutes pi?ces if

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THE

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

SELF

PROUSTIAN

121

PERSPECTIVE

as
as much of the given arrangement
but optimally preserving
a
beneath
the single
maximal
for
and aiming
multiplicity
possible
I saw
was
which
the
("I
by
multiplicity
delighted
controlling
principle.52
of organiza
in my life," echoes Marcel
[SG 590].) As for the principle
which
is
in part on a condition
tion, we have seen that it depends
a
a
to
with
the
telos
break
clean
past,
satisfy, namely
impossible
the retrospective
position and value of the separate events
guaranteeing
in one's narrative. For Nietzsche
and, Iwould argue, for Proust too, it is
a
than to face the
to
and live accordingly
telos
such
imagine
preferable
is to
The way to give style to one's character
fact of its nonexistence.
necessary,

posit a point
up residence
once

to

an aim,

for

Try

yourself
in
pursuit

this

of

existence
your
a "to this end,"

justify
goal,
and

animae

perishing,

and work back from there;

of future completion
in the future perfect.

this?I

only

magnae

prodigas,

as
an

know

of

in pursuit

it were
and

exalted
no
of

better
the

it is to take

by setting
posteriori
"to this end."
noble
aim
great

of
and

life
the

than

before
Perish
that

of

impossible.

(HL9)
as heroes?from
a
us the art of
ourselves
viewing
art of
and
and
transfigured?the
staging
simplified
can we
some
in this way
with
base
in
details
deal
Only
...
but foreground
be nothing
it taught
this art we would
and as something
from a distance
{GS 78; my
past and whole.

as

and,

taught

it were,

ourselves.

watching
ourselves.
man

. . . have

artists

Only
distance

Without

to see himself

emphasis)
Proust's

narrator

relocates

to

this

particular

temporal

zone

on

of a rarity in the French novel,


of occasions
(again something
one
senti
the
climax
of Flaubert's Education
compare
though
might
see
amoris
remedia
Gilbertae
in
his
also
(J5G260;
mentale),
particular during
BG 255, SG 187, TR 7). In general, however, one might argue that the
futuric perspective
is the inevitable destination
of a fictionally
adoption
of a novel whose sentences
often delay completion
inordinately, whose
a novel without
hero begins
and
whose
entire world
is
it,
finishing
a
our
moment
in
of
At
law
serial
any given
governed
by
misconception.
we will
life, runs the corollary, we should not be asking what we are?for
a
be
of
unfulfilled
always only
tangle
possibilities?but
wondering,
instead, what we will have been. To think autobiographically
is, in fact, to
for one's current
conjure up an idealized future self and to account
in terms of it. Thus an autobiographical
constitution
text, or even a life
is part of a narrative
lived in the autobiographical
continuum
mode,
number

which
one's

extends

beyond

development

the present moment,


tracing the various lines of
at infinity, an
their point of convergence

toward

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122

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

"as it were a posteriori,'9 consistency


ideal telos from which one projects,
One manages
into a life of chaos and contingency.
and indeed purpose
to speak as it were from beyond
the grave, to write one's own epitaph;
but always in the awareness
that this is a fantasy, and a transitional one at
in
that. As one's own artwork, one is always to some extent a work
or
to
the
GS
Each
addition
substantial
subtraction
from
(
367).
progress
of our life, that growing mass of unrelated
material
part-selves which go
to make up our Self, necessarily
involves a revision of the overall picture
and of its vanishing point.
so
itmust be conceded
that Proust is rather reticent, far more
Again
even than Nietzsche,
in outlining
the image of a life lived as if it were a
one to
work of art. We have reached
the area of greatest
speculation,
internal
ironies of the Recherche, and the external
about Proust's
it
and
what we may postulate
between
discrepancies
can drive us. All we can know
actual project,
is that the hesitant
is hardly the novel saturated with meta
bildungsroman Proust delivers
that Marcel
us; and that there is
promises
phor and self-confidence
too
in
it
whether
actual or
much
else
besides
autobiography,
simply
of Parisian high society, the Dreyfus affair, the
fictional. The discussions
Great War, and so on may, like anything
else, reveal Marcel's
tempera
but it is hard to see how they could serve to bring his disparate
ment,
I would
into a harmonious
selves (let alone
whole.
those of Proust)
which

only

the

therefore propose
that we see the novel not as Proust's own life "realized
in a book," all of its individual acts and aspects forged
into a unity, but
a type of
as one more act in that life. If it ends up imprinting
precisely
on his existence,
it does so not by
aesthetic
order and justification
it a retrospective
into literature but by giving
it directly
transforming
an
as
is neither
It
for
this
work.
the
great
meaning
preparation
an
a
one
to
nor
how
for
write
model
but,
instead,
yet
autobiography
can
to
novel
of
still
come?the
of
the
type
perfection,
always
example
never be completed,
and Marcel's
is barely begun by the time Proust's
we have to posit if we are to consider
ends, or rather breaks off?which
ourselves
of a unified Self. To the artist, each successive
the possessors
the
outfit for the dandy, merely
chosen
artwork
is, like a carefully
an
the
inner
of
outward sign of a single coherent
Self,
organization
over
time
and
like
well
Elstir's
which,
may
style,
change
organization
of a
like the great nineteenth-century
novel, is always something
which,
failure.

more
the
it seems to me, understands
Proust,
clearly than Marcel
as a
its function
instrumental
and transitional
role of fiction writing,
on the path to becoming
who one is, rather than as that
stepping-stone
a way of
in
his
Recherche
itself;
fact, not so much
represents,
activity
as
an
a
of
inverse
off
into
the
realm
life
literary
single part
siphoning

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THE

SELF

PROUSTIAN

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

PERSPECTIVE

123

into the day-to-day.


of aesthetic modes
process, namely the importation
to have put only
Proust might well have claimed
With Oscar Wilde,
of
talent into his written works, reserving all his genius for the mode
so directly. All he can
of
he
But
he
course,
cannot,
say
being
practiced.
one of which
is
do is to offer us a series of hints and a pair of models,
Mme Swann, the other himself. And his own life is not to be taken as a
of content, but merely
in every detail?not,
that is, as a model
model
one of form. He is not suggesting
still less
that we all become
novelists,
that we all write A la recherche du temps perdu. On the contrary, as his
is to defy that
narrator reminds us, the only way to emulate a paradigm
a
new
can
of
what
love
version
make
you
only by first
"you
paradigm:
an
to
Not
be
has
it"
artist; but anyone
(TR 525).
everyone
renouncing
who wishes to possess a unified Self has to be an artist of life.
Stanford

University

NOTES
1 Throughout
structure
of an

this paper
individual

to the overall
I capitalize
the word
"Self when
referring
as distinct
from
the individual
incarnations
consciousness,
are ulemoi"
In
and
it.
Proust
these
(or
"moi-m?me")
populate

(lower-case
"selves") which
ulesmoi" respectively
(see, for example, Within a Budding Grave, p. 255, which
speaks
"slow and painful
loved Gilberte
suicide of that self which
[du moi qui en moi-m?me

of the
aimait

In Search of Lost Time, 6 vols., tr. C. K. Scott Moncrieff,


Terence
D. J. Enright
hereafter
cited in text by individual
volume:
Kilmartin,
(New York, 1992-93);
a
Swann's Way
Grove [BG], The Guermantes Way
[GW], Sodom and
[SW], Within
Budding
Gomorrah
[TR]. I have occasionally
[C], The Fugitive
[F], Time Regained
[SG], The Captive
in order
to bring
it into line with the original
modified
the English
French.
translation
Gilberte]").

It will

Marcel

be

narrator

Proust,

to the later stages of the present


that author
(Proust) and
paper
important
are not equivalent.
go hand in hand up to a certain
They do, however,
and the early sections will reflect this largely shared attitude
company,

("Marcel")
stage before parting
to the question
of
threads

from

and narrator,
on
I proceed

selfhood.

one

another;
the function

the principle
either

to
difficult
the two
extremely
disentangle
that there is an ironic gap between
author
In general,
of such irony are far from unambiguous.
views except where
that Proust shares his narrator's
these are
It is of

although
and scope

course

it is clear

claims or by the course of events.


by directly
conflicting
Proust: The Fictions
1965), hereafter
of Life and Art (Oxford,
in Proust," Modern Language Review, 90
cited in text as FLA; Jonathan
"New Truths
Dancy,
Les Voix narratives dans la Recherche du temps perdu
18-28; Marcel M?ller,
(Winter,
1995),
(Geneva,
1965).
4
See Gerard Genette,
in Figures (Paris, 1966), pp. 39-67, Figures II
"Proust palimpseste,"
obviously
challenged,
3 See Leo Bersani,

Marcel

Lecture de Proust
Picon,
1969), and Figures III (Paris, 1972); Ga?tan
(Paris, 1995
cited in text as
Poulet, Etudes sur le temps humain I (Paris, 1952), hereafter
) ;Georges
in Etudes sur le temps humain IV:
ET, L'Espace proustien
(Paris, 1963), and "Marcel Proust,"
Mesure
de l'instant
Derwent
(Paris,
1968),
(Oxford,
1983);
pp. 299-335;
May, Proust
(Paris,
[1963]

Malcolm

Proust Among
the Stars (London,
Marcel Proust
Bowie,
Shattuck,
1998); Roger
Shattuck
cited in text asMP. Roger
is confident
(Princeton,
1982), hereafter
(a) that the
in two main
crucial division
lies in the faculties,
of
the soul
(b) that it consists
parts

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124
and
(intelligence
manner
advocated
an

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

(c) that these two may be brought


Greeks
(Marcel Proust, p. 127)?not
as will become
clear in what follows.

and
intuition),
by the ancient

assumption,
unproblematic
a crucial
line from

into alignment
one of which
Malcolm

in the
seems

Bowie

does

the existence
of diachronic
selves ("what
indicating
to be our love or our jealousy...
is composed
of an infinity of successive
loves"
the Stars, p. 20]),
but he nevertheless
self in its
[Proust Among
speaks of the multiple
dimension
alone
like, if at all
(see, for example,
pp. 5, 10). Indeed he would
synchronie

reproduce
we suppose

Proust

to diminish
to a dimensionless
it still further,
substance
void, "a vacancy awaiting
possible,
as claiming
an artwork
he
also
and structure"
When
cites
Proust's
that
10).
(p.
protagonist
a
the essence
of its creator
what kind of essence
conveys
(p. 19), he leaves one wondering
could
possess.
"vacancy"
The

is one which

model

vacancy
on
hypothesis

Leo

with my own,
many
junctures
"emotional
background"?that

as an early, discarded
explicitly
rejects
in the
"the self so meticulously
analyzed
(Marcel Proust: The Fiction
'empty apparatus'"

Bersani

narrator:

the part of Proust's


narrative
of A la Recherche is anything
of Life and of Art, p. 107). Bersani's

an

but

at
analysis, which
painstaking
overlaps
to mere
reduces
the synchronie
division
the diachronic
(see especially
explanation?for
and

brilliant

nevertheless
is, causal

p. 52).
In Contingency,
5
1989),
(Cambridge,
Irony, and Solidarity
that if memory
could
retrieve what
created
us,
thought
to becoming
by "what one

tantamount

what

one

Richard

writes:

that

itself would

Rorty
retrieval

"Proust
be

It is far from
clear what
Rorty
(p. 118).
"rid himself
thinks that Proust
of the fear that

was"

[is]," since he also


a real essence"
truth about himself,
that
(p. 103). I will argue
to each individual;
but that this essence
does
there is, on Proust's
view, an innate essence
a truth about
not by any means
the whole Self.
constitute
In Malcolm
the problems
of selfhood
6
Bowie's
"can have and need
have no
view,

understands
there was

an antecedent

solutions"

(Proust Among
Proust defines

the Stars, pp. 5, 2). Richard Terdiman,


off "the
having first written
as
as "a false self and Proust's
resolution
as,
highest"
proposed
in consequence,
"a false resolution"
(The Dialectics
of Isolation: Self and Society in the French
to Proust
Novel from the Realists
later goes on to reject
[New Haven,
1976], pp. 246-47),
"I am convinced
of Proust's
for good measure:
that large numbers
memory
involuntary
self which

never
truly believed
to occupy
the conceptual
Crisis [Ithaca, NY, 1993],
Memory
both
the synchronie
incorporates
have

readers

enough

seems

was real
the phenomena
described
[sic] Proust
to it" (Present Past: Modernity
and the
he attributes
whose
p. 237). And Gilles Deleuze,
analysis
complex
and
the diachronic
of self-division,
likewise
aspects
that

space

to underestimate

somewhat

1964]; see especially


two c?t?s, he claims,

Proust's

pp. 145, 192). For him,


are not really connected,

response
Proust's

to both
world

(Proust
is a world

et les signes
in fragments.

[Paris,
The

just linked by "transversals"


(p. 184); even
en commun
sites but "n'affirme
elle
que leur diff?rence
disparate
to train travel, the very opposite
m?me"
this may apply
is true of
(p. 137). Now while
automobile
rides, as Marcel makes
(Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, pp. 549-50;
quite explicit
to Georges
the same amendment
would
also apply
Poulet,
p. 93).
L'Espace proustien,
travel does

not

unite

it is on

Similarly,
Guermantes

foot

that Marcel

discovers

Time Regained,
(Proust,
in the Cambremer-d'Oloron

pp.

the geographical
after having

3-4),

continuity
witnessed

of M?s?glise
their social

and
inter

at
(Proust, The Fugitive, p. 913). When,
marriage
permeability
as Marcel
offers
that the two c?t?s are not as distinct
last, Mlle de Saint-Loup
living proof
comes first and foremost
once thought,
in the form of "high roads," and only
the evidence
it is
reasons,
(Time Regained,
p. 502). For these and other
secondarily as "transversals"
difficult
7

to accept

Jonathan

succinctly

Deleuze's

final

verdict.

the question,
Dancy
phrases
(New Truths in Proust, p. 20). He

at

least

appears,

in

its diachronic

however,

not

quite

aspect,
extremely
to understand
the

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THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 125


as
he construes
the phenomenon
of involuntary
memory
as
seems
tea
more
in
and
also
the
madeleine
than,
(rather
past
making
today's
us recall a similar sensory experience
we have previously
reasonable,
Indeed,
had).
making
he takes Proust to be saying that we can never have the same experience
twice: "We can no
to us" (21). This is surely the very opposite
of
longer see things the way they then seemed
answer

Proust
us

offers,

since

taste

what

the involuntary memory


The Iliad ofHomer,
Homer,
cited in text.

to prove.
theory is designed
tr. Richard
Lattimore
(Chicago,

1951),

1.188-89;

hereafter

"On Narcissism:
An Introduction,"
in The Complete Psychological Works of
Freud,
Sigmund
(London,
1957), pp. 93-99.
Sigmund Freud, vol. 14, tr. James Strachey
10 Friedrich
Kaufman
Nietzsche,
(New York, 1966), sec.
Beyond Good and Evil, tr.Walter
cited in text as BGE by section number.
19; hereafter
9

11 See John Cooper,


in Rationality
and Moral Value,"
in Greek
"Reason, Moral Virtue,
Frede and Gisela
Striker
(Oxford,
1996), pp. 81-114.
Thought, ed. Michael
was different,
as is each appearance
"Each of these Albertines
12
of the dancer whose
are transmuted
to the endlessly
varied play of a
colors, form,
[and] character,
according
was
were
so
It
because
I used
to
the
whom
diverse,
persons
spotlight.
perhaps
they
in her at this period,
a
that later I developed
the habit of becoming
contemplate
myself
to
to
different
the
Albertine
whom
had
turned:
my
person,
according
particular
thoughts
a jealous,
an indifferent,
a
a frenzied person,
a melancholy,
anew ...
created
voluptuous,
in proportion
to the strength of
was the
to
I
this
belief....
For
which
[my]
point
invariably
to those beliefs which
our souls unbeknown
had to return,
for most of the time occupy
to
our
to
for all that are of more
than
is
the
us, but which
person
importance
happiness
whom we see, for it is through
them that we see him,
it is they that impart his [or her]
... To be
to the person
seen.
to give a
I ought
momentary
grandeur
quite accurate,
name
to each of the selves who subsequently
different
about Albertine;
I ought
thought
name
to give a different
to each of the Albertines
still more
before me]"
[who appeared
On this point, compare Gilles Deleuze,
Proust
(Proust, Within a Budding Grove, pp. 719-20).
et les signes, pp. 84-85.
13 See G?rard Genette,
Figures II, p. 248.
14 Though
he may at times believe
he never fully loses this original
cathexis
otherwise,
to a much
he may feel indifferent
older
(Proust, The Captive, p. 173); while
(and, in his
mind,
radically different)
for the "true" Gilberte:
we have

which
15

The

analogy
Hobbes

preserved
between

Gilberte
(Time Regained, pp. 438, 443), he still retains a fondness
"Time which
human
does not alter the image
changes
beings
of them" (Time Regained, p. 438).
and political
constitutions
is of course as old as Plato's
personal

in his
does Hume
as, subsequently,
Republic.
famously
picks it up in his Leviathan
"I cannot
Treatise ofHuman Nature
more
soul
to
the
(1740):
compare
any thing
properly
or commonwealth,
than to a republic
in which
are united
the several members
by the
ties of government
and subordination"
cited
1960], 1:261); hereafter
([Oxford,
reciprocal
in text as HN.

It is from

most

to Nietzsche?"what
passes
likely, that the metaphor
in
well-constructed
and
commonwealth
every
happens
happy
the governing
class
identifies
itself with
the successes
of the
[Gemeinwesen]-,
namely,
In all willing
a
commonwealth.
it is absolutely
on
of commanding
and obeying,
question
... of a social structure
the basis
of many
'souls'" (Beyond Good and Evil, sec.
composed
in somewhat modified
is like that of
19)?and
thence,
form, to Freud: "the ego's position
a constitutional
without
whose
sanction no law can be passed but who hesitates
monarch,
his veto on any measure
(The Ego and the
long before
imposing
put forward by Parliament"
Id, tr. Joan Riviere
[New York,
1989], p. 57).

happens

16

here

See Alexander

hereafter

cited

here,

is what

Nehamas,
in text as LL.

Nietzsche:

Life as Literature

(Cambridge,

Mass.,

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1985),

p. 181;

126
17

Richard

18

Friedrich

Truth:

The Dialectics

Terdiman,

Selections from Nietzsche's

(Atlantic

Highlands,
Nietzsche,

Nehamas,
19 See

Plato,

Notebooks

1979),
178-79.

NJ,
pp.

of Isolation, p. 208.
in a Nonmoral
and Lies

in Philosophy
and
Sense,"
Breazeale
of the Early 1870's, ed. and tr. Daniel
cited in text as TL. See also Alexander
pp. 79-97; hereafter

"On Truth

Nietzsche,

tr. Alexander

Symposium,

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

Nehamas

and

Paul Woodruff

(Indianapolis,

196e-97a.
1989),
20
See Georges

"Marcel Proust," p. 326.


Poulet,
cover
in
the
them
up little by little those that preceded
past
"Days
buried beneath
those that follow them. But each past day has remained
21

and are

themselves

in us, as
a
even
is
of
the
which
oldest
there
books,
where,
copy
nobody
library
. . . , then
. .rise to the surface
will ever ask to see. And yet should
this day from the past.
names
resume
for a moment
their former meaning,
their former aspect,
[and] we
people
our state of mind
at the time"
ourselves
(Proust, The Fugitive, p. 733).
a brilliant
account
thus provides,
other
revision
of the
22 Marcel's
benefits,
among
in a vast

as it is commonly
"nostalgia"
it is not because
those times

concept
implies,

imagination
nothing
(Within

us

flatters

themselves

all,
they were. After
in and of itself, not names

that

value

possesses
a
Budding

understood.

If we
were

enjoy memories
nor

enjoyable,
it is a general
(Proust,

deposited
doubtless

of
simply

principle
The Guermantes

past, he
our
because

times

in Proust

that

Way, p. 4), days


(Within a Budding

Grove, p. 81), places


(The Fugitive,
p. 884), people
Grove, p. 513), objects
(Essais et articles, ed. Pierre Clarac and Yves Sandre
[Paris, 1994], p.
's
(Swann Way,
(The Guermantes Way,
76), or landscapes
p. 606), and certainly not memories
sure Marcel
not just the happy times
remembers
is, in fact, at pains to make
p. 756). Proust
moments:
but also mundane
and even
him of his
traumatic
Marcel's
boot
reminds
the clinking
death
(Sodom and Gomorrah, pp. 210-13),
spoon brings back a
grandmother's
see
moment
of abject creative
Richard
Bales, Proust:
257-58;
(Time
pp.
impotence
Regained,
A la Recherche du temps perdu [London,
itself summons
1995], p. 16), and the madeleine
up
room on a Sunday morning,
a scene
laid out in all its
"to live in,
six long pages prefaced
by the broad disclaimer
. . ." (Swann's
was a trifle depressing
Combray
Way, p. 65).
While
the memory
the act of recollection is itself always
however,
may be unappealing,
Lecture de Proust, p. 170).
Genette,
Picon,
(See Gerard
joyful
Figures III, p. 95; Gaeton
does Gilles
[in Present Past, p. 198] does not see this, and neither
(Richard Terdiman
nothing
tedious

more

than Aunt

and bathetic

L?onie's
over

detail

to
moment
of each privileged
he considers
the "meaning"
ou
sens
des jeunes
filles, Venise
place?"leur
signifie Combray,
for reasons
Balbec"
[Proust et les signes, p. 17; compare
65, 70]?a
pp. 50-51,
reading which,
warms
mentioned
the heart not for what
above, strikes me as highly
improbable.)
Memory
it gives us of the objects
"I remembered?with
recalled but for what it gives us of ourselves:
because

Deleuze,
presumably
be a material
object

or

it showed

because
pleasure
type of experience

me

sprang

from

in those days I had been


the same and that this
that already
a fundamental
trait in my character"
(Time Regained, pp.

272-73).
of how this works, as well as a discussion
of the difference
23
For a description
between
see
set of necessary
variable
Kant's uniform
and Nietzsche's
"categories"
"perspectives,"
in Perspectivism,"
Lanier Anderson,
"Truth and Objectivity
1-32. See
Synthese, 115 (1998),
also Lanier Anderson,
"Nietzsche's
Views on Truth
and the Kantian
of His
Background
in Nietzsche's Epistemology,
and Philosophy
Epistemology,"
of Science: Nietzsche and the Sciences II,
an extremely
ed. Babette
E. Babich
1999, which
(London,
1999), pp. 47-59,
provides
useful
of perspective
in the Nietzschean
mode.
definition
(and Kantian)
working
"Nietzsche,"
perspectives
thereby

give

writes

"understands
along
loosely Kantian
perspectives
of concepts
the data of our experience
which
organize
a certain
'look' for us" (p. 49).

Anderson

include
the world

here,

schemes

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lines:
and

THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 127


allows

"Leibniz

24

something

of

adds to it
while
the entire universe,
monad,
reflecting
Marcel
is
Guermantes
de
chose
656).
(The
Way, p.
particulier]"
[quelque
sec. 57: "Just as the same city viewed
from different
to Monadology
each

that

its own

referring
in just the
different
and, as it sere, multiplied
appears
entirely
perspectively,
same way it happens
of simple substances,
there are,
of the infinite number
that, because
on a
as it were, just as many different
which
are, nevertheless,
universes,
only perspectives
to the different
monad"
of
view
of
each
one,
(Gottfried
points
corresponding
single
ed. and tr. Daniel Garber
and
and theMonadology,
Wilhelm
Leibniz, Discourse onMetaphysics
to have
Blaise
Pascal
Monads
Ariew
aside,
1991],
76).
appears
p.
Roger
[Indianapolis,
nous regardons
les choses par d'autres
this sense that "non seulement
c?t?s,
anticipated
mais avec d'autres
[Paris
1964],
#124).
(Pens?es
yeux"
to each one of us ...
it is not one
is true for us all and dissimilar
"The universe
25
presumably
directions

as the number
as many
in
almost
of human
but millions,
eyes and brains
Nietzsche:
that awake every morning"
existence,
(Proust, The Captive, p. 250). Compare
there are many kinds of 'truths'" (The
"There are many kinds of eyes ... and consequently
Kaufmann
and R. J. Hollingdale
Will toPower, tr.Walter
[New York,
1967], p. 540).
"Marcel Proust," pp. 385-86
and Leo Bersani, Marcel Proust, p. 28.
See Georges
26
Poulet,
universe,

Genette,
Shattuck, Marcel Proust, p. 33.
Figures III, p. 46 and Roger
"as
Locke's
should compare
(1689):
Understanding
Essay Concerning Human
can repeat
the idea of any past action with the same consciousness
far as any intelligent
being
it has of any present
it had of it at first, and with the same consciousness
action; so far it is
27

See G?rard

28

Here

one

the same personal


as coherent

count

self
under

A perspective
would
thus
as
count
unique} Vincent
to see the world
from person
B's

1997], 2:10, my emphasis).


definition.
Does
it also

([London,
Locke's

it is possible
for person A
Yet Proust
du roman [Paris, 1987], pp. 48-49,
56-57).
at The
of someone
else's standpoint
it clear
(as, for example,
and The Fugitive, pp. 589-92)
is only ever a fleeting
and purely
Guermantes Way, pp. 208-12
the protected
Within
intellectual
space of art we may well see the
thought
experiment.
one individual
but Proust's
world
the eyes of another";
theory will not permit
"through
a
to
in
and
the
of a second
take
on,
sense,
permanent
actually
meaningful
perspective
Descombes

point
makes

thinks

of view

not,

since

(Proust: Philosophie
that the adoption

can

as Marcel

to detect
the more
does,
the
mutual
they
aspire
preternatural
signs
awareness Marcel
to homosexuals
considers
[Sodom and Gomorrah, p. 18].)
unique
as Another,
tr. Kathleen
Paul Ricoeur,
29
1992), p. 128.
Blarney
(Chicago,
Oneself
"Thus we ourselves
into the appearances
that order and
30 A quasi-Kantian
point:
bring
we would not be able to find it there
in them that we call nature, and moreover
regularity
individual.

overt

(Thus heterosexuals
of homosexuality,

train

but

themselves,
can never

or the nature of our mind,


had not originally
tr.
Pure
and
Allen W. Wood
Paul
Reason,
Guyer
of
The Gay Science, tr.Walter
31
Friedrich
Nietzsche,
cited in text as GS.
hereafter
ifwe,

32

Hans

Ulrich

Gumbrecht

has

shown

nineteenth-century)
understanding
der Wirlichkeit:
"Schwindende
Stabilit?t

of

to

put

it there"

[Cambridge,
Kaufmann

that this is a particularly


the concept
"style"

Kant,

Critique

p. 125).
(New York,
1974),

p. 354;

(Immanuel
1997],

Romantic
(Hans

Ulrich

Eine Geschichte
des Stilbegriffs,"
dnes Kulturwissenschafllichen
ed. Hans Ulrich
Diskurselements,
and K. Ludwig
Pfeiffer
[Frankfurt,
1986], pp. 751-52).
new
to Nietzsche's:
is extremely
33
Proust's
infinite
similar
"the world

largely
Gumbrecht,
Stil: Geschichten

und Funktionen

'infinite'
include

for us all over

again,

inasmuch

as we

cannot

reject

the possibility

infinite

(indeed

Gumbrecht
has

become

that

it may

(The Gay Science, p. 374).


interpretations"
to Roger
all due respect
Shattuck
With
(Marcel Proust, p. 103), I see no compelling
reason to read the
ironically. For one thing, we would have to read the Time
Captive section
in the same way. For another,
Proust's
1895 study of Chardin
shows him
Regained passage

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128 NEW LITERARY HISTORY


and even in a limited sense
in full agreement
with Marcel
that art allows us to experience,
to take this view seriously has
to adopt, other perspectives
(Essais et articles, p. 70). A failure
in Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy
led some critics (for example, Martha C. Nussbaum,
in Proust et les signes, p. 185)
and Literature
and Gilles Deleuze,
1990], pp. 271-74,
[Oxford,
is.
to see the Recherche as more
than it actually
(and weaker)
pessimistic
tr.Walter
Kaufmann
and Ecce Homo,
The Genealogy ofMorals
34
Friedrich
(New
Nietzsche,
cited in text as GMand
EH, respectively.
York,
1969), p. 1 (EH); hereafter
to follow Roland Barthes
few critics seem, surprisingly
35 Relatively
("Longtemps,
enough,
tr. Richard Howard
heure
[New
...," in The Rustle of Language,
je me suis couch? de bonne
et les norms,"
in Le Degr? Z?ro de l'?criture [Paris, 1972], p.
that the novel we have just
(Les Voix narratives, p. 49) in noting
or rather has just begun
to
to
novel
Marcel
is
about
the
is
write,
reading
different from
write. Louis Martin-Chauffier
("Proust et le double
Confluences,
?je? de quatre personnes,"
essai sur les structure
21 (July-August
56, 64), Jean Rousset
(Form et signification:
1943),
litt?raires de Corneille ? Claudel
(Marcel Proust, p. 244),
[Paris, 1962], p. 144), Leo Bersani
Richard Terdiman
(Marcel Proust, pp. 38,
(The Dialectics
of Isolation, p. 173), Roger Shattuck
York,
121)
been

1986], p. 283 and


and Marcel M?ller

"Proust

or less
Bales
(Proust, p. 73) all accept more
(Proust, p. 15), and Richard
May
two
and
G?rard
Genette
of
the
the
III,
texts,
p. 224) only
(Figures
identity
unquestioningly
them in terms of their ostensible
between
time, rather than on
composition
distinguishes
"Le reste . .. nous est d?j? connu par le roman
the basis of any substantive
discrepancies:
to give the impression
m?me
ici" (p. 237). I submit that if Proust had wanted
qui s'ach?ve
to conclude
to produce
have done better
the Recherche, he would
that Marcel
is destined
the novel before
the latter puts pen to paper, or, failing that, to have him completehis book.
131), Derwent

if the regulative
it is, Marcel
stranded
finds himself
half-way:
what we read as we read it, then he must already have finished

As

fiction

is that Marcel

writes

we have; if, on
by the time
even be sure
stand we cannot

then as things
is still to come,
the writing
hand,
the end
that he will ever reach
("how many
great cathedrals
will be the Recherche.
alone
that his masterwork
the other

remain

unfinished!"),

let

been
to my knowledge,
of evidence
decisive
(which has never,
piece
possibly
is the fact that, with but a sole exception
(Marcel Proust, A la Recherche du
refers to the text at
vol. 1, p. 515), Marcel
habitually
temps perdu, 4 vols. [Paris, 1987-90],
he almost
whereas
neutral
"cet ouvrage"),
hand?his
memoir?as
"ce r?cif (or the more
One

mentioned)

as "mon
oeuvre"
livre" or "mon
work
(with its
future/inchoate
for itself). The
the nuance
"oeuvre
litt?raire":
"oeuvre
d'art,"
speaks
at Recherche vol. 4, pp. 609-10)
and
relendess
of livres (ten in a single page-length
barrage
the few
at Recherche, vol. 4, pp. 618-19)
oeuvres (eight in a
surely outweighs
page-length
a single "ouvrage"
deviations
from the norm
(vol. 4, pp. 618, 620; and vol. 1, p. 569, where
to
refers
always
associated
forms

is slipped

the

of a pair of "oeuvres").
it incorporates
several discrete
Nietzsche's
Proust's
style?unlike

in front

and involves subtle shifts in tone


elements
Although
set of styles, none
"multifarious"
and emphasis,
famously
It is
and distinct.
itself as largely uniform
his own?presents
of which
is peculiarly
to separate out the three components
which are probably
difficult
lodged within
extremely
of Marcel's
of Proust's
it, namely
(2) a reflection
(1) a reflection
perspective,
perspective,
I would
of subjectivity.
notion
of or recipe for a universally-applicable
and (3) a reflection
36

comes
in the choice of metaphors,
that Marcel's
however,
through
perspective
speculate,
At every
and volumes.
of clauses,
and Proust's
in the structure
scenes,
sentences,
chapters,
as Richard
to "open up from the middle,"
shows a marked
level, the narrative
tendency
are fixed,
boundaries
Terdiman
has put it (The Dialectic
of Isolation, p. 181): the external
a subject from its verb, a cause from
in the interstices,
dividing
can always muscle
new material
its way in, clad
its d?nouement,
commas. With
to G?rard Genette
and Jean Milly
all due respect

but

its effect, a subplot from


in a convenient
pair of
(La Phrase

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de Proust:

des

THE

SELF

PROUSTIAN

PERSPECTIVE

IN PHILOSOPHICAL

129

de Bergotte aux phrases de Vinteuil


Proust's
world
does not simply
[Paris, 1975]),
in all directions;
like the Japanese
it finds
its expansion
flower,
instead,
proliferate
wildly
always limited by a metaphorical
teacup. Proust's
style, in other words, bears all the marks
as
to
not given
of a mind
which
views experience
all at once but subject
something
recovered
revision,
memories,
indefinite)
multiple
(perhaps
freshly
improved
given
of existing
and new events which
force old memories
into
memories,
understanding
phrases

different

schemata.
all this at greater
in "The Texture
of
(I discuss
interpretive
length
to Proust, ed. Richard
in The Cambridge Companion
Bales
[Cambridge,
and return to the idea of infinite
text below.)
in the main
forthcoming]
reusability
37 G?rard Genette,
Figures III, p. 45; Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figurative Language
in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust (New Haven,
1979), p. 71.

Proust's

Novel,"

It is true, as Genette
demonstrates
famously
(Figures III, p. 42), that many of Marcel's
are based
a steeple
in space
to a
(the narrator
metaphors
compares
simply on contiguity
in the countryside,
cornstalk when
the character
to a fish when
finds himself
the latter is
38

the sea). But one could


counter
of the countryside
(among elements
tence of such "m?tonymie"
metaphors
thus "if I always imagined
the woman

that

by

there

is still a selection

involved

in each

case

or

and that the very persis


seascape
respectively),
a higher-level law of Marcel's
indicates
perspective:
I loved in the setting Imost
longed at the time to visit

... it was not


by the mere hazard of a simple association of thoughts; no, it was because my dreams
... in a
of travel and of love were only moments
irresistible
single, undeviating,
outpouring
as
of all the forces of my life" (Swann's Way, 119-20). We
need not conclude,
certainly
Ga?tan
Picon
in
(Lecture de Proust, p. 159) and Leo Spitzer
Proust,"
("Le Style de Marcel
?tudes de Style, tr. Alain Coulon,
Michel
Foucault
Elaine Kaufholz,
[Paris, 1970], p. 457) do,
that anything

perspective
39 More

nor blame Proust, as Genette


seems to ("Proust
metaphor,
to use metaphors
which
shed
the objects
failing
light upon
after all, is not
the objects
themselves
but the
illuminated,
they are seen.

in Proustian

goes

53), for
is to be

p.
palimpseste,"
described:
what

which

through

as if she were a Botticelli,


Swann views Odette
famously
analogously,
seeing
as a perfect
of an Odette
at an
de Cr?cy but as a failed attempt
specimen
longer
ideal which
to
allows
Swann
surpasses her. The Odette-Botticelli
juxtaposition
reinterpret
but

her no
what

he

considers
seemed

large they
[Proust, Swann's
overall
context:

like Odette's
defects,
to droop
beneath

Way, p. 276] ), as positive


"she stared at him fixedly,
the women
master
of the Florentine

marks

but so
("her eyes were beautiful,
rest
strained
the
her
face"
of
weight,
a different
somehow
features,
justified within
eyes

over-large
their own
with

that

in whose

and solemn
air which
languishing
faces he had found a resemblance

with

at the brink of the eyelids,


her brilliant
like
hers; swimming
eyes, wide and slender
on the verge of
seemed
out like two great
tears" (Swann's Way, p. 330).
welling
Similar miracles
transform Elstir's wife,
in Marcel's
into
eyes, from a "heavy" human being
a painted
de Guermantes,
(Within a Budding
Grove, p. 588) and the Princesse
portrait
flawed
of her own special brand of beauty,
incarnation
from a set of "unfinished"
line
theirs,

into "an ideal figure"


(The Guermantes Way, p. 46).
segments
40
See Alexander
"The Postulated
Author:
Critical
Nehamas,
133-49.
Ideal," Critical Inquiry, 8.1 (Autumn
1981),
41

Gilles

as a Regulative

en vain chez Proust


that "On chercherait
sur
les platitudes
totalit? organique
o? chaque
le tout, et o? le
partie pr?d?termine
... m?me
tout d?termine
les parties
le tableau de Ver Meer ne vaut pas comme Tout, mais
l? comme un fragment
encore. De
d'un autre monde
par le petit pan de mur jaune plant?
la petite phrase de Vinteuil,
et dont Odette
m?me,
dit ? Swann
?intercal?e,
?pisodique?,
besoin du reste? C'est
l? notre morceau?"
?Qu'avez-vous
(Proust et les signes, p. 123).
[One
look in vain in Proust for
would
about the work of art as organic
platitudes
totality in which
l'oeuvre

each

Deleuze

Monism

d'art

claims

comme

part predetermines

the whole,

and

in which

the whole

determines

the part....

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Even

130

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

the painting
is not valid as aWhole
but because
of the patch of yellow wall
by Vermeer
there as a fragment
of still another
In the same way, the little phrase
world.
of
planted
about which Odette
the
Vinteuil,
says to Swann:
episodic,'
'Why do you need
'interspersed,
rest? Just that is our piece'"
Proust and Signs, tr. Richard
Howard
[New
(Gilles Deleuze,
to search
it is perfectly
York,
1972], p. 102)]. But as we shall see very shortly,
possible
Proust for such "platitudes"
without
in vain. As far as the petite phrase is
the quest being
Odette
the best judge of its aesthetic
in
is hardly
who
concerned,
surely Marcel,
qualities;
structure
The Captive praises
the complex
into which
the phrase
finds
itself
precisely
source. And as for The View of Delft, it is only Bergotte?on
is a more
reliable
the
placed,
to that of the aging
of
and
into a similar
"materialism"
death,
point
likely falling
quite
a Budding
its "little patch of yellow
considers
Grove, p. 587)?who
(Proust, Within
context.
detachable
from
the overall
Marcel
(The Captive, p. 244-45)
may well
and a fortiori Proust,
that obsessive
and painstaking
"architect"
of a
disagree,
planner
masterwork.
"Pr?tendre
avait l'id?e m?me
confuse
de l'unit?
que Proust
labyrinthine

Elstir
wall"

us rather
la Recherche,"
admonishes
"c'est le lire d'un
Deleuze
testily,
["To claim that Proust had the notion?even
(Proust et les signes, p. 124).
... is to
the antecedent
(Proust
vague or confused?of
unity of the search
ready him badly"
and Signs, p. 103)].
If that is the case, a considerable
of us (Jean Rousset, Marcel
number

pr?alable
mauvais

de

oeil"

have questionable
M?ller,
Shattuck)
Roger
eyesight.
See also Georges
42
Poulet,
p. 133.
L'Espaceproustien,
43
of History
Friedrich
"On the Uses and Disadvantages
for Life," in Untimely
Nietzsche,
ed. R. J. Hollingdale
cited in text as HL.
Meditations,
1983), p. 3; hereafter
(Cambridge,
to unify a life. But for him, that
44
Alasdair Maclntyre
would
agree that it takes narrative
all narrative?is
moral in character:
he writes,
narrative?like
"narrative,"
fundamentally
or bad character
an evaluative
to produce
in which
framework
"requires
helps
good
or
and the
unfortunate
Crises, Dramatic
Narrative,
happy outcomes"
("Epistemological
of Science,"
in Paradigms
and Applications
and Revolutions:
of Thomas
Philosophy
Appraisals
Kuhn's Philosophy
Ind., 1980], p. 57). Even if (as
[Notre Dame,
of Science, ed. Gary Gutting
is archly acknowledging
is unlikely)
that virtue
is
this is not a chiasmus,
and Maclntyre
to accept.
For important
and vice rewarded,
the generalization
is hard
punished
at Lisbon,
such as the earthquake
have a way of affecting
individuals
independendy
or vicious
to believe
and we have no need
otherwise
their virtuous
planning
scheming,

often

events,
of

to understand,
Candide, Kafka's The Trial or the Book of Job.
say, Voltaire's
is defined
invites similar reservations
when he states that "my identity
by
Taylor
within which
I
which
the frame or horizon
and identifications
the commitments
provide
in order

Charles

can try to determine


or what
I endorse

from
or

case

to case what

oppose"

(Sources

or what
or valuable,
to be done,
ought
the Self: The Making
of the Modern
Identity
seems
to think
that all other
(nonmoral)

is good,
of

1989],
p. 27). Oddly,
Taylor
are "things we invent"
to offer a reductio of his
still, he appears
(30). Odder
. . .
own argument
is something
when he draws the conclusion
that one
that "an identity
can surrender
one ought
to
it
is
the
hard
when
to" (p. 30). Quite
from
fact
that
apart
[Cambridge,
frameworks

are?since
how we can fail to be who we inescapably
the
to Taylor,
not invented
but given?this
surely contradicts
a stance on "what
to be done." Under
is defined
identity
by
ought
our identity, namely
that which
allows us to
"ought" we to surrender
to do?

framework

understand

moral

according

his earlier

45

Richard

life

in his

hawthorns,

what
judge

is,
that

claim

circumstances
what

we ought

. .
well: "Proust.
put the events of his own
Rorty states this point particularly
own order, made
a pattern
out of all the little
the
among
things?Gilberte
in the Guermantes's
the color of the windows
the sound of the name
chapel,

'Guermantes,'

the

two walks,

the shifting

spires.

He

knows

this pattern

would

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have

been

THE PROUSTIAN SELF IN PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE 131


or later, for there would have been fewer or more
little things
to be fitted
into it" (Contingency,
Irony, and Solidarity, pp. 105, 99,
as
in this sentence,
"Proust"
the word
take issue with
however,
101). One might,
two do not share the same ontological
Like
the
with
since
"Gilberte,"
space.
juxtaposed
seems
to equate
Terdiman
Ga?tan
Picon
and Richard
(see Present Past, p. 239), Rorty
had he died

different

which

would

and narrator

author

characters:
other

have

earlier

had

fictional
Proust encounter
the living, breathing
of having
into a thing by the eye of the
in Sartre's phrase,
turned
being,
St. Loup's
'hard look,' Charlus's
stare')"
(Contingency,
'enigmatic

to the point

"He dreaded

(by, for example,

p. 102).
For Alasdair
46
or worse

better
X's

life with

emphasis)?and

is
each life allows for one and only one valid account?"what
Maclntyre,
on the character
of that intelligible narrative which provides
for X depends
its unity"
1981], p. 209, my
(After Vvrtue: A Study in Moral Theory [London,
as he sees it, for a single (albeit complex)
framework. While
moral
hence,

that our lives may change dramatically


Maclntyre
(p. 200), he does not draw
acknowledges
seem to be an inevitable
that our stories may change
what would
too,
conclusion,
namely
is not fixed for all time
and that the meaning
of the individual
actions
(by
they contain
for each [p. 193]) but is, on
of intentions
say, as the hierarchy
responsible
to the next. There
liable to vary from one version
are, in fact, no a priori
one can never know in
a set value to a particular
course of behavior;
for ascribing
what the significance of any given event will have been.

being defined,
the contrary,
grounds
advance

we could use
of lucid self-delusion,
the phenomenon
Freud does not address
Though
in order to account
is the conscious
for it. The ego, of course,
part of
tripartite model
it speaks for the self as a whole;
id leads ego astray on a
the mind which
tends to believe

47

his

can at
in his 1928 essay "On Humour,"
the superego
suggests
of passive,
The
amused
the position
(
spectator
faindy
Complete Psychological
an
When
Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 5, tr. Joan Riviere
1958], pp. 73-102).
[London,
at
not achieve
individual
does
her desires,
she
them,
Freud,
argues
simply
laughs
regular basis;
times occupy

and as Freud

a blow to the narcissism


for that of superego:
"the
of ego with a triumph
compensating
in the subject's
humorous
thus "consists
from his own ego
attitude"
the accent
removing
. . . the
it onto his super-ego.
and transferring
To the super-ego
ego can appear tiny and
himself
trivial" (pp. 218-19).
Or as Nietzsche
puts it, "whoever despises
as one who despises"
respects himself
(Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 78).
in Reconstructing
48 John Freccero,
and Narrative,"
Individualism,
"Autobiography
Thomas
C. Heller,
Morton
Sosna, and David E. Wellberry
1986), p. 20.
(Stanford,
49 Marcel
Proust, Le Carnet de 1908 (Paris, 1976), p. 92.
all its interests

still
ed.

Nietzsche: Life as Literature


6, "How One
chapter
(especially
sensitive and multilayered
Proust
account,
Is"). Judging
by Nehamas's
in
his
of
Nietzsche
of
the
and
self-creation,
processes
except
analysis
self-discovery
parallels
not grant the newly forged Self any measure
that Proust would
of truth (p. 174), whether
or not it is acknowledged
finds a slightly different
observers
by outside
(p. 188). One
50

See Alexander

Nehamas's

Becomes

What

account

of self-fashioning,
inMichel
Foucault's
though of equally Nietzschean
inspiration,
tr.
the
Robert
Nehamas's
book
Nietzsche
York,
1986);
(New
of
Hurley
Self,
and
the key text on the subject, not only by virtue of its thoroughness
however,

The Care

One

remains,
it forms a whole with Nehamas's
other writings.
rigor but also because
the various
has had to say in the course
confirms,
things Nehamas
and so on are all
Thomas
Plato, Nietzsche,
Mann,
authorship,

As The Art of Living


career about

of his

and all
compatible
serve to support a
in favor of what he calls the art, or arts, of
ultimately
lifelong argument
on the other hand,
the turn to "the care of the self marks
living. In the case of Foucault,
a serious
Sartrean

(and ultimately
unaccounted-for)
denials
of individual
autonomy.

from the earlier,


anti
departure
strenuously
to make
It is thus not always clear what
of the

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132
later works

of Foucault

in the context

Art

of Living: Socratic Reflections


charitable
critical but ultimately

of his oeuvre as a whole

from Plato

to Foucault

NEW LITERARY HISTORY


(see Alexander

[Berkeley,

1998],

pp.

Nehamas,
157-88

The
for a

reading).
"The link may be uninteresting,
the objects
trivial, the style
agrees
entirely:
has taken place
the description
this process
is worthless
bad, but unless
[tant qu'il n'y a pas
eu cela, il n'y a rien]" (Proust, Time
Regained, p. 290).
is one to which Nietzsche
ideal of unity amid diversity
The
subscribes?"this
52
strongly
51

Marcel

as whole,
as full"
as manifold
as ample
of being
called greatness: being
capable
as Lanier Anderson
sec. 212)?but
one which,
is by
Good
and
has
out,
Evil,
(Beyond
pointed
no means
to him, being widely
held by philosophers
in the German
classicist
unique
in Perspectivism,"
for example
tradition
Leibniz's
18). Compare
("Truth and Objectivity
shall

be

Monadology
the greatest

as much
this is the way of obtaining
but with
variety as possible,
as
as possible"
it
that
is
the
of
much
is,
way
possible,
obtaining
perfection

sec. 58: "And


order

(P- 76).

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