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Artists and Alchemists in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu

Topping, Margaret Eileen 2006. Artists and Alchemists in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. French Studies 60 (4) , pp. 466-478. 10.1093/fs/knl170

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Abstract

This article explores the significance of a network of images drawn from the world of alchemy that is present as a persistent undercurrent in Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. It is argued that alchemical images — of transmutation, crucibles and gold itself — provide emblematic markers, within the diegesis of the novel, for the narrator-protagonist's evolution to creation. These images encompass the full hierarchy of aspirations of the alchemist, from financial gain to the spiritual transcendence sought by the true initiate. Indeed, A la recherche charts a metaphorical progression from material to spiritual ideals. In tracing out the narrator-initiate's path, alchemical images draw in such key themes as art, society and desire, and encompass a very Proustian range of tones and effects, from the celebratory to the satirical. The article also aligns Proust as novelistic creator with the alchemist of style and perception who transmutes the base matter of observation and experience into gold. In this respect, Proust is situated in relation to a broader nineteenth-century artistic emphasis on transfiguration rather than imitation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0016-1128
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 22:07
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/3465

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