What is the course about?
Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. -Marcel Proust
Why read Proust? Many have started, and most stop 50 pages in…but it haunts any reader whose interest in the moment of Modernism means encountering references of Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece.
After reading Volume I, we may recognise that reading Proust teaches the reader to observe how the world is experience,to be aware that although humans are tempted to give greater weight to the perceptual universe, it is the entwining of memory, idealized experience (dreams) and relationships with what our senses perceived that molds our consciousness.
Proust also uses his curious and attentive narrator to uncover the ombre—the part of the self that hides in the shade or shadow. As we come to know the characters in the narrator’s world, each turns out to have aspects that reveal a savagery or laziness or discrepancy that was not what appeared on the surface.
In Volume II, Proust will continue to explore class structures and awakening sexuality. Asconsidered in V1, the form of love as Proust conceives it is an entity not necessarily shared between the lovers—but may often be a projection from one onto the love object—and therefore limited in how much that love depends on the actuality of the other in its conception.
The writing itself is not challenging—the challenge in the beginning of the epic is to be patient: patient with the seemingly self-absorbed narrator, the endless descriptions, the depth of detail in the descriptions.. And funny—it is an ironically humorous reading but it will take time for the humour to seep through. We will consider one section each week; a slow reading to help you gather the skills and structures necessary to complete the later volumes. Please see below for required text.
What will we cover?
Language, structure, theme, symbolism, epiphany, the use of stream of consciousness and narrative perspective as demonstrated in the literature. Also French history (late 19th-early 20th ct.), use of epic tradition in modern literature and early Modernism.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Understand the Modernism genre and examples of the visual and linguistic experimentation used in this period
• Identify key techniques (epiphany, stream of consciousness, optics and perspective, fluid narration) of Proust’s art
• Appreciate the experimentation of narration manifested in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower and consider how this changed narrative art
• Develop a working knowledge of the themes, characters, narrative techniques and social structures of In Search of Lost TIme.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is geared for both the first time and repeating reader. A close reading of the first volume will be invaluable for this study.
The ability and willingness to read text, exchange response to it and listen in an open and supportive way to the response of others.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Tutor input , textual analysis, large and small group discussion, dramatic readings, creative response and preparatory reading. The reading load is significant. You are highly encouraged to read the first 50 pages, in preparation for the first meeting. Tutor will provide additional notes and preparatory materials via email.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
CORE TEXT Please purchase these in preparation for our study:
Within A Budding Grove by Marcel Proust (Volume II of In Search of Lost Time)
Vintage Classics Moncrief/Kilmartin/Enright ISBN-13:978-0099362319
** Please note that this is the Moncrief title – the more accurate title to the translation is : In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower is the one chosen in the Prendergast edition published by Penguin—this edition would be fine (you will just need to adjust the page references).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please look for literature courses under Humanities in the prospectus and under History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details