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Gardens of Desire, The

Marcel Proust and the Fugitive Sublime

Stephen Gilbert Brown

Publication Year: 2004

The Gardens of Desire is at once a model of literary interpretation and a groundbreaking psychocritical reading of a literary masterpiece, Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past). Shedding new light on the origins of the creative impulse in general, and on the psychological origins of the Recherche in particular, the book illuminates the hidden associations between matricidal, suicidal, sadistic, masochistic, homoerotic, and creative impulses as manifested in Proust’s work. The book moves beyond traditional Freudian readings of Proust to consider the theories of Otto Rank, Jacques Derrida, and others, and provides provocative readings of the “privileged moments” that comprise many of the work’s “critical cruxes,” as well as a thought-provoking rereading of the novel’s ending. Both elegant and accessible, this book boldly explores the violence of desire as it relates not only to Proust’s narrator, but also to Proustian criticism itself, with its own violent desire to appropriate the essence of Proust’s masterpiece.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. ix-x

Though this book’s cover and title page bear my name, its creation owes much to the inspiration and assistance of a select group of colleagues I would here like to acknowledge. At the University of South Florida, I wish to thank Prof. J. P. W. (Pat Rogers) for giving me the opportunity to pursue graduate studies in Proust in his seminar, to refine the focus of this book, and to get his valuable feedback on several key chapters. I would also like to thank Professors Sara Deats and Phil Sipiora for allowing me to model Rankian readings ...

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Introduction: Entering the Garden

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pp. 1-19

I share Updike’s sentiments for Moncrieff’s flawed translation: if some of the accuracy of the original text may have been sacrificed in translation, little of its charm has been—which seemed more important to me at the time I began writing this book, and still does. Added to this was the knowledge that Moncrieff’s translation had met with Proust’s approval—as if the author was speaking through this particular translator. In a letter to Moncrieff shortly ...

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1. The Kiss of Death: Desire in the Garden of Good and Evil

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pp. 21-49

IN A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU (1922–27) Proust provides two case studies that usefully illustrate the theories of Otto Rank regarding the neurotic origins of the creative impulse. The first involves Marcel’s long apprenticeship to art; the second foregrounds the career of the “old music master of Combray,” Vinteuil. This Rankian reading of A la Recherche is driven by (and therefore must commence with) a series of questions: does ...

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2. The Art of Sapphic Desire: The Curse of the Little Phrase

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pp. 51-92

PROUST’S NOVEL TREATMENT of Vinteuil’s “little phrase” provides a case study on the Rankian origins of the creative impulse. While criticism has expended much ink interpreting the privileged moments of Montjouvain and the “little phrase” separately, it has not sufficiently developed the implications of their interrelationship. Yet, the deeper grammar of the Montjouvain seduction and the “little phrase” epiphany deeply inform the plot of ...

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3. The Hymenoptera of Self and Other: The Making and (Un)Making of Knowledge

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pp. 93-142

PROUST’S GENIUS IS to a significant degree inscribed in the dynamics of the self-Other dyad. Writing occurs in the space between self and Other—is the effect of the self’s sexual differentiation from the mother and all Other, and the principal means by which the self surmounts its differentiation. Writing is the ultimate cure for the pathology of the fictive self, fulfills the series of pathological desires rooted in differentiation: ideal-hungry, mirror-hungry, ...

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4. Three Moments of Desire: The Ideal, the Real, and the Remembered

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pp. 143-174

PROUST’S MODE OF NARRATION in Recherche consists in part of a threefold dialectical progression in which the romantic enchantments of the imagination are repeatedly contradicted by experience, only to be recuperated by a retrospective perspective that synthesizes the enchantment of the ideal with the empiricism of the real, revealing a lived reality that is nonetheless spiritual for its materiality. This “series” of the ideal, the real, ...

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5. Recherche and the Rankian Gaze

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pp. 175-215

THE FUNDAMENTAL CLAIM that Recherche is a bildungsroman of the artist (novel of development) has recently come under critical attack in a growing body of postmodern scholarship, and particularly in the works of Doubrovsky, Gray, and Kasell. Yet even postmodern criticism is divided on this point, as evidenced for example by Deleuze’s interpretation, which posits Marcel’s career as an “apprenticeship to signs,” the most significant of which are the signs of art. ...

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Conclusion: The Art of Madness

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pp. 217-235

The origins of the creative impulse are complex. Aside from Joyce’s Portrait, few works in the modernist canon dramatize those origins as insightfully as A la Recherche du temps perdu. Similarly, few theorists demystify the origins and effects of the creative impulse as coherently and usefully as Otto Rank, as evidenced in the work that comprises his most mature articulation of those theories, Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development. Rank’s ...


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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-243

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484968
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791461136
Print-ISBN-10: 0791461130

Page Count: 243
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62365333
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gardens of Desire, The

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Subject Headings

  • Proust, Marcel, -- 1871-1922 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Desire in literature.
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