Understanding Proust

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019


French author Marcel Proust was at the forefront of exploring the literary device “stream of consciousness” as its usage began to rise in the early 1900s. He seemed particularly interested in using “stream of consciousness” to delve into memory. What may be the most articulate statement of Proust about his philosophy of memory, according to O’Brien, is as follows: “Yes, if memory, thanks to oblivion, could not contract any link, throw any chain between it and the present minute, if it stayed in its place, on its date, if it kept its distance, its isolation in the hollow of a valley or at the tip of a summit, it makes us suddenly breathe a new air, precisely because it is an air that we once breathed, this purer air that the poets have vainly tried to bring back to Paradise and that could give this deep sensation of renewal only if it had been already breathed, because real heaven is the Paradise we lost. (III, 870)” (O’Brien 295).

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