Proust and Zola: Name that Picture

Baldwin, Thomas (2010) Proust and Zola: Name that Picture. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 46 (1). pp. 29-42. ISSN 0015-8518. (The full text of this publication is not available from this repository)

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Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqp119

Abstract

Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu and Zola's L'œuvre appear in their different ways to be hung with paintings. There are commentators who are keen to spot them. The implication is that we may leap outside the text to find a “real” painting that might complete the “truth” of the fiction. In this article, my aim is to show that these texts contain certain descriptions which both provoke and frustrate the art-spotter's efforts. While the reader is powerfully induced into thinking that there are painters and paintings to be found, these things are in fact internal to the texts themselves. If our reading will not accept that they must remain there, then we are liable to ignore some of the effects that these texts create, important among which is their power to produce a desire for an external referent in the reader. While the passages I examine are different in terms of the objects they set out to describe, one being a description of a view through a window that may resemble a picture (Proust), another that of a fountain in a park (Proust), and a third that of a picture painted by a fictional artist (Zola), the effects they create are similar: both writers use proper names in ways that entice the reader from the territory of the novel into some extra-fictional place that is assuredly part of the territory of the world. Moreover, while Zola does not use the names of recognised artists directly, such names often come to mind as we read his descriptions of Claude Lantier's paintings. Proust does supply well-known artists' names, but also produces descriptions that compel us to recognise the referential opacity – we could call it incompleteness – of extra-fictional names in fictive utterances. In both cases, whether it is on the tip of the tongue or fully inscribed within the text, the name offers for a moment the prospect that we might reach a place outside the textual limit of the fiction only to disturb our attempt to remain there comfortably.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Proust, Marcel; Zola, Émile; ekphrasis; proper names; Derrida, Jacques; Barthes, Roland
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > French
Depositing User: Tom Baldwin
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2012 10:39
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2014 10:31
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/30094 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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