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

Luckman, Rachel Anne (2009). Desiring myth: history, mythos and art in the work of Flaubert and Proust. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of French Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures


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