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“Marcel Proust”

Michael Wood, English and Comparative Literature, emeritus; Christy Wampole, French and Italian

November 16, 2023 · 6:00 pm7:30 pm · Labyrinth Books

Labyrinth Books; Humanities Council; Department of French and Italian; Department of Comparative Literature

From one of our most subtle and witty critics, who invariably shows us how to read with fresh eyes, comes a book on the experience of reading Marcel Proust.

What would the world be like without the work of Proust, where would we be if it hadn’t happened? This is how Michael Wood found himself writing about Proust’s work as an event and about events in relation to that work itself. The event that created the figure we know as Proust did not take a whole lifetime, we can date it to within certain months, perhaps certain weeks, of a certain year, 1908. That was when Proust the interesting occasional writer and full-time socialite, turned into an ostensible hermit and a real novelist.

This short book says something about the event as a lifetime affair, and shows what the sudden change of 1908 looks like. It explores the work of Marcel Proust as an event in the world, something that happened to literature and culture and our understanding of history. This event has more aspects than we can count, but this book offers detailed critical snapshots of seven of them: the birth of Proust as a novelist; what he teaches us about the mythology of beginnings; about metaphor as a kind of rebellion; about love as a permanent anxiety attack; about the Dreyfus Affair; about the concept of justice; about the mythology of endings.

Michael Wood is professor emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He has written widely on 20th century literature, film, and literary theory and is an admired cultural critic who writes regularly for the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He is the author of seminal books on Nabokov, Marquez, Yeats, Oracles, and much more. His book previous to Marcel Proust is Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much. Christy Wampole is Professor of French at Princeton University and the author of Degenerative Realism: Novel and Nation in 21st Century France; Rootedness: The Ramifications of a Metaphor; and The Other Serious: Essays for the New American Generation.

 This event is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and French and Italian as well as Comparative Literature Departments.

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