The Self

Colburn, B. (2023) The Self. In: Elsner, A. and Stern, T. (eds.) The Proustian Mind. Routledge: Abingdon, pp. 93-106. ISBN 9780367357627

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Marcel, Proust’s narrator in A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, spends most of the novel afflicted by doubt about the nature of the self and his ability to grasp it, to the point he complains that ‘my life appeared to me … as something utterly devoid of the support of an individual, identical and permanent self’ (F, 680; IV, 680). This pessimism is later juxtaposed with something more optimistic: by the end of Time Regained Marcel is convinced that he has overcome his earlier doubts and grasped the self he had sought. There are multiple ways to understand the theory of the self which Marcel arrives at, and how it relates to the anxiety-drenched scepticism which pervades most of the novel. In this chapter (after explaining the pessimistic conception) I explore three readings of the optimistic shift: that we can excavate a timeless self from sensory experience; that ‘creation and discovery come together’ (Landy 2004: 114) and the self is something we ourselves construct; and that the self is transcendent, manifesting in the episodes of involuntary memory that punctuate the novel. I conclude with reasons to doubt that Marcel’s author shares his optimism, or that his readers should.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Philosophy, self, Proust, literature.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Colburn, Professor Ben
Authors: Colburn, B.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy

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