Edited by Emanuela Piga Bruni (University Mercatorum, Rome), Ruggero Ragonese
(University of Modena-Reggio Emilia), Marion Schmid (University of Edinburgh)
“En effet, ‘reconnaître’ quelqu’un, et plus encore, après n’avoir pas pu le reconnaître, l’identifier, c’est penser sous une seule dénomination deux choses contradictoires, c’est admettre que ce qui était ici, l’être qu’on se rappelle n’est plus, et que ce qui y est, c’est un être qu’on ne connaissait pas ; c’est avoir à penser un mystère presque aussi troublant que celui de la mort dont il est, du reste, comme la préface et l’annonciateur.”
Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé
The centenary of Proust’s death next year is neither the only, nor the first event in honour of the author of In Search of Lost Time. This year, for instance, we celebrate the 150th birthday of his birth while, in 2013, the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann’s Way was marked by a number of festivities. In its celebratory dimension, this upcoming centenary may seem more apt for initiatives conducted under the ambit of French Studies than under that of semiotics or narratology. However, we believe that it offers an opportunity for a broader, trans-disciplinary reflection. Beyond the intrinsic value of the anniversary, Proust’s death marks a starting point for multiple narratives about the author and about authorship, as well as for mythologies surrounding his biographical persona.
The legend according to which Proust died after putting the finishing touches to his magnus opus (“Now I can die.” He said to Céleste Albaret his housekeeper and secretary) has given rise to some kind of terminus post quem. From this point in time, the Proustian oeuvre – in waves, and sometimes slowly – has become the site of a cultural landscape which goes beyond and transcends that of the novel, and even that of literariness and narration. Almost as if to be faithful to Proust’s conception of death as ‘pas simplement de n’être plus’, but of ‘d’être autre’ (Poulet 1989), a second Proust has emerged in the one hundred years that are behind us. As Maurizio Ferraris (1987) reminds us, ‘the true redemption of lost time is not entrusted to the pages of Le Temps retrouvé, but above all to future readers, who will be able to make use of the general laws that are passed down by the novel.’ A century after Proust’s biological death, it is perhaps time to take stock of this transmission. The redemption of time accomplished by future readers, of which Ferraris speaks, is already partially a past time, which can be remembered. It does not suffice, then, to say that, over the years, a space post-mortem has been constructed which is composed of numerous analyses, readings, and reworkings of the novel; we must also somehow re-find it.
It is a century of readings, re-imaginations, and transformations that we want to celebrate in this issue. What is at stake is not to re-read the Proustian novel, but, rather, to grasp the theorizations, experimentations and projections to which it has given rise. In other words, our aim is to reconsider Proust via the manifold interpretations which have succeeded one another, and which have, one may say, always evolved along a straight line of distance between the real writer and the fictional persona. If what happens in the Recherche is almost never history, but “le langage, l’aventure du langage dont l’avènement ne cesse jamais d’être célébré” (Barthes, 1981), then it is time to rethink this centenary from a semiotic point of view.
We thus would like to propose a special issue which focuses not so much on Proust’s work per se, but on the ways in which his oeuvre has become a quasi-inexhaustible platform for meta-narrative, meta-textual and meta-linguistic discourses. The call for papers will be articulated around the following three thematic axes :
- Meta Proust: the articles in this section embrace a specifically semiotic and meta-theoretical interrogation, which explores why and in which ways Proust has given rise to manifold, often central discourses on the novel, authorship, and signs. Needless to recall perhaps that, over the last hundred years, the Proustian novel has inspired a wealth of literary, narratological and semiotic theories and methodologies. This is particularly true for France (Gilles Deleuze, Gérard Genette, Jacques Fontanille, Paul Ricoeur, to only mention some prominent examples), but also Italy (Giacomo Debenedetti, Stefano Agosti, Mariolina Bongiovanni Bertini, Mario Lavagetto) and Germany (Hans R. Jauss).
- Reimagined Proust: the second section revolves around the multiple attempts to transpose Proust into other media (cinema, graphic novel, theatre, dance, etc.), from Harold Pinter’s screenplay to Nina Companeez’s adaptation of the whole of the Recherche, from Roland Petit’s ballet to Stéphane Huet’s graphic novel, not to forget artists like Fabio Carpi, who have let themselves inspire by Proust for freer reworkings. We will equally be interested in the translations of Proust’s work, as well as the biographical and fictional texts which have taken Proust as their protagonist.
- Proust as citation, model or stereotype: this last section will examine prominent Proustian tropes and mythologies (the madeleine, the mother’s good-night kiss, the grand-mother, the Dreyfus Affair), homages (Sergio Leone’s famous “sono andato a letto presto” in C’era una volta in America), citations (Philip Roth in American Pastoral or Paolo Sorrentino in La Grande Bellezza), Proustian sites and itineraries (Illiers renamed Combray, the Grand Hotel Cabourg, the ‘Hôtel littéraire Le Swann’ in Paris), Proust as a an ethic or aesthetic model (De Botton, Saramago), events and situations linked to the Proustian oeuvre (the extraordinary case of Józef Czapski’s reading of the Recherche in a Soviet concentration camp).
Deadline for proposals (max 2000 characters): September 30, 2021
Notification of acceptance of proposals: October 10, 2021
Deadline for final contributions: November 30, 2021
Publication: December 2021
Proposals should be sent to: