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Understanding Ideology in Proust: The Case for Socio-Genetic Criticism Marion Schmid GENETIC STUDIES, and there can be no doubt about this, have revolutionized our understanding of Proust's monumental œuvre and opened up a vast and extremely fruitful domain of inquiry for Proust scholarship. In 1962, the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) created a "Fonds Marcel Proust" which now holds almost all of Proust's manuscripts and, in 1972, a Proust Research Centre was founded which operates under the joint aegis of the Institut des Textes et Manuscrits Modernes and the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Over the past 30 years, the Proust Research Group under the direction of Bernard Bran has reconstructed the long and complex history of the conception, elaboration, and publication of A la recherche du temps perdu, analyzing its different compositional stages and identifying patterns in Proust's highly idiosyncratic writing practice.1 Most of the work in the early stages was necessarily of a philological nature: the wealth of preparatory documents had to be dated and catalogued before any interpretative research could be undertaken. Now that the corpus is well classified (although the discovery of new documents will undoubtedly necessitate readjustments) and a vast selection of Proust's drafts has been included in the new Pléiade edition (even if a truly genetic edition of his manuscripts is not yet available), the question which urgently arises is this: where are genetic studies on Proust going? What new domains of inquiry are beginning to take shape and which will be explored in the coming years? The question of the future of genetic studies on Proust is inextricably linked to that of the future of genetic criticism as a whole and to its development and potential as a method of literary criticism. In order to have a real impact, genetic studies will have to demonstrate their ability to enrich or even change our readings of a given text and our understanding of a given audior, as well as to enlighten us about the processes and conditions of literary production . The challenge which genetic criticism faces at present therefore is to prove that it is directly relevant to our understanding of finished works. Such a challenge can only be met if genetic criticism manages to liberate itself from the stigma of being perceived as a purely textual method by reinforcing its links with the more interpretative methods of literary criticism: psychoanalysis , socio-criticism, gender studies, and so forth. Vol. XLI, No. 2 79 L'Esprit Créateur One area of genetic criticism where such links have already been established very successfully and which holds great promise for Proust studies as well as for the genetic method in general is the branch of studies known as "socio-genetic criticism." In her excellent introduction to genetic studies, Eléments de critique génétique, Almuth Grésillon defines the socio-genetic approach as follows: [L'approche socio-génétique] consiste à s'interroger sur le tissage intertextuel et discursif que l'avant -texte exhibe entre, d'une part, le texte d'auteur en train de se faire, et, d'autre part, les choses lues, sues, vues et entendues d'une culture d'époque: doxa littéraire, savoirs engrangés, idées reçues, code de représentations, souvenirs, rencontres, impressions de lecture—bref l'air du Socio-genetic criticism resolutely inscribes the writing process in the social domain. Focusing on the ways in which a literary text absorbs and reworks social discourse, it seeks to gain a better understanding of the complex relation between the text and the culture of reference that informs it, a relation which, as Claude Duchet, one of the foremost promoters of sociocriticism in France, reminds us, is often characterized by conflict.3 The question of the author's position within his or her cultural and ideological environment, which lies at the heart of the socio-genetic method, is of course central to Proust studies. Proust's ambiguous attimde to the prominent ideologies of his time (anti-semitism, homophobia, colonialism, nationalism, etc.) has sparked considerable debate. Critics such as Julia Kristeva, J. E. Rivers and Edward Hughes have underlined the truly subversive nature of Proust's text...


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