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Desiring myth: history, mythos and art in the work of Flaubert and Proust

Luckman, Rachel Anne (2009)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Previous comparative and parallel ‘genetic criticisms’ of Flaubert and Proust have ignored the different historical underpinnings that circumscribe the act of writing. This work examines the logos of Flaubert and Proust’s work. I examine the historical specificity of A la recherche du temps perdu, in respect of the gender inflections and class-struggles of the Third French Republic. I also put forward a poetics of Flaubertian history relative to L’Education sentimentale. His historical sense and changes in historiographic methodologies all obliged Flaubert to think history differently. Flaubert problematises both history and psychology, as his characterisations repeatedly show an interrupted duality. This characterization is explicated using René Girard’s theories of psychology, action theory and mediation. Metonymic substitution perpetually prevents the satisfaction of desire and turns life into a series of failures. Mediation is taken further in Proust, and characters are sacrificed to preserve the harmony of the salon. Culture is composed not only of logos but of mythos as well: Poetry, Art, History and Religion are all analysed in this study. Flaubert’s works enact a repeated invocation and repression of the visual, most evident in the Tentation de Saint Antoine, where the symbol is occluded and the logos is lost, whilst Proust’s itinerary as a writer involves resurrecting the soul of John Ruskin and culminates in his protagonist’s initiation into the Arts. Proust culminates a series of attempts since the Realists to analyse the predicament of post-revolutionary Man. The works of the two authors show a flight from the exterior world to one of interiority, but there is no solace to be had in either Flaubert’s world of the logos or Proust’s of the mythos.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Department:School of History and Cultures, Department of French Studies
Subjects:PQ Romance literatures
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:526
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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