Is Odette an artist? Approaching female creativity in Proust’s à la recherche du temps perdu

Hartley, J. C. (2016) Is Odette an artist? Approaching female creativity in Proust’s à la recherche du temps perdu. French Studies, 70(3), pp. 348-361. (doi: 10.1093/fs/knw125)

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This article proposes to broaden our understanding of artistic activity in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu through the example of Odette Swann’s act of self-fashioning in the conclusion of ‘Autour de Mme Swann’. The article opens with an overview of the relationship between women and the arts in À la recherche : Proust’s female characters, apart from actresses, do not express themselves through the canonical arts. But Proust also depicts creative activities of a more domestic nature, not usually considered art forms. This article posits that À la recherche destabilizes hierarchical categorizations of what should be considered superior or inferior forms of creative expression. As a result, the passages concerned with Odette’s toilettes should be considered as integral parts of the novel’s exploration of the nature of art. Odette’s transformation from the Botticellian ‘pièce de musée’ desired by her husband into a new artefact of her own design is considered in dialogue with Charles Baudelaire’s essay ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’. Proust’s Odette can be viewed as a response both to Baudelaire’s suggestion that female adornment is an aesthetic endeavour and to the complex twofold temporality that Baudelaire finds behind both beauty and great art.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hartley, Dr Julia
Authors: Hartley, J. C.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Comparative Literature
Journal Name:French Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1468-2931
Published Online:05 June 2016

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