Joyce vs Proust


i am writing my 490 paper on Swann’s Way. This is a difficult task. i would argue it is as intimidating as writing a philosophy paper on Kant, though i would never attempt the later. I have no idea how to go about the former either, but i will manage.

In an attempt to inspire myself to write, i just read Harold Bloom’s piece on Marcel Proust in Genius (an exellent book, by the by, that i love turning to before writing on a work in the canon. it does inspire). After reading a short essay that reduced me almost to tears in how acutely i was able to feel Marcel’s pain, yet again, i came to a conclusion as to why i find Proust so compelling and Joyce so alienated from my own experience. Ulysses may be representing reality in a more diverse and thick way, but it is not how we experience reality. At least, not how i do. Swann’s Way feels like life. It feels as real as my life. It isn’t “realistic” or representative, but reading it is like reading Shakespeare – the characters are “real” but still unexplicable – in the way people are inexplicable in real life (Harold Bloom there, not me). Ulysses may be deep and thought-provoking, but it didn’t stick with me. I think because experience is too closely tied to narrative for us. Narrative is what let’s us maintain the self. Proust is aware of that and presents us with a narrative that is a self. A self that isn’t aware it is the narrative voice until the very last pages of In Search of Lost Time.

I am happy i am writing on Proust. More happy than i have been since i was writing a paper on Madame Bovary. That paper didn’t turn out as well as i had hoped, but i guess we have aspirations for our children that never realize no matter how much we love them. At least i feel the love…


3 thoughts on “Joyce vs Proust

  1. Sounds like your distinction between the different manifestations of realism in Proust and Joyce could be approached from the philsophies of Kant and Hegel. No, seriously! Look, Hegel’s aesthetic theory accounts for why you prefer Proust’s hidden instantiations of absoluteness in the particulars that cannot be extricated from their universals. Kant would have pointed out, mind you, how much more accurately Joyce is able to demonstrate reality by not actually leaving you anything in particular to sit with indefinitely.

  2. I think I still have a copy of a “Madame Bovary in 5 minutes” play I wrote during our Champlain years kicking around somewhere. Let me know if you’re interested.

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