Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Making Up for 'Temps Perdu' in Physiological and Literary Discourse: Helmholtz, Marey, Proust

Duffy, Larry (2023) Making Up for 'Temps Perdu' in Physiological and Literary Discourse: Helmholtz, Marey, Proust. French Studies, 79 (1). ISSN 0016-1128. (In press) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:101211)

Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only
Contact us about this Publication
[thumbnail of FRESTU-2021-OA-379_Accepted.pdf]


In 1851, Hermann von Helmholtz sent to the Académie des Sciences de Paris a communication on the time-lapse between an electrical stimulus and the physiological muscle reaction provoked, denoted by the term ‘temps perdu’. The concept, popularized in France (and modified) by physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey, became widespread in French medical writings. Commentators have identified an apparent connection between Helmholtzian ‘temps perdu’ and the title À la recherche du temps perdu, supposedly informed by Proust’s familiarity with the contemporary medical milieu, of which his father, acquainted with Marey, was a member. Such commentary, frequently by scientists, is typically biographical, and focuses on the titular coincidence or on the related notion, coined by Marey and entitling a section of Sodome et Gomorrhe, of ‘intermittences du cœur’ (as distinct from Xavier Bichat’s notion of ‘intermittence’, an established topic in Proust criticism). This article considers the interconnected notions of ‘temps perdu’ and ‘intermittences du cœur’ in terms of decisive slippages in their meaning, firstly in physiological discourse, particularly in Marey’s writings on blood circulation (overlooked by Proust criticism in favour of his ‘kinetoscopic’ work), and then, through identification of their plausible reiterations in Proust’s novel’s use of physiological and technological analogy, in literary discourse.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Proust, Helmholtz, Marey, Intermittence, Temps perdu
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance Literature > PQ1 French Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Larry Duffy
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 12:11 UTC
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 09:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.