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Abstract

This dissertation explores the philosophical potential of Marcel Proust’s narrative and rhetorical strategies for describing space in his literary output. Interested by the immediate connection between time and memory displayed by Proust in several well-known passages of In Search of Lost Time, scholars have neglected the foundational role of spatial experience for the representation of the activities of human consciousness. My analysis opens to an interdisciplinary approach, revealing both Proust’s ties to a previous philosophical heritage and the possible interpretation of his text through contemporary theories. On the one hand, in fact, I show how his treatment of space is imbued with the spiritualist philosophy of the 19th century; on the other, I examine his antirealistic rendition of a specific space, landscape, as a way to distance himself from the literary tradition and in the light of recent landscape theory. In this work, I argue that Proust’s novel can be read as a series of equivalences participating in an overarching space-time analogy founded on the reversibility of these two terms. In other words, the author uses the metaphorical language of space to convey his theory on time perception, treating the two dimensions of space and time as equal. Moreover, space takes over multiple communicative tasks, such as giving expression to aesthetic experiences, self-perception, feelings of love, jealousy, ecstasy, and many others. As a consequence, in Proust’s writing, space becomes the linguistic vehicle for the whole spectrum of human consciousness. This operation is carried out in two steps, which I identify as a “métaphorisation de l’espace” (metaphorization of space) and a “métaphorisation par l’espace” (metaphorization by space): at first the narrator utilizes a metaphorical language to talk about actual spaces, then he adopts spatial metaphors to refer to the spiritual content of the book. My contention is that these two moments contribute to the broader argument concerning the centrality of spatial experience in the shaping of In Search of Lost Time, as well as in the definition of Proust’s theory of the novel.

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