Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life

Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life

Suzanne Guerlac

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Through an engagement with the philosophies of Marcel Proust’s contemporaries Félix Ravaisson, Henri Bergson, and Georg Simmel, author Suzanne Guerlac (French) presents an original reading of Proust’s magnum opus, Remembrance of Things Past (A la recherche du temps perdu). Challenging traditional interpretations, Guerlac argues in Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life (Bloomsbury, 2020) that Proust’s novel is not a melancholic text, but one that records the dynamic time of change and the complex vitality of the real.

Situating Proust’s novel within a modernism of money, and broadening her analysis through the exploration of visual technologies and cultural developments of the period — including commercial photography, photojournalism, and pornography — Guerlac reveals that Proust’s true subject is the adventure of living in time, on both the individual and the social level, at a concrete historical moment.

Guerlac is joined by Representations board member Damon Young (French and Film & Media). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.

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Suzanne Guerlac is the author of “Humanities 2.0: E-Learning in the Digital World” (Representations 116, Fall 2011) and “The Useless Image: Bataille, Bergson, Magritte” (Representations 97, Winter 2007) and a contributor to “Reflections on Durational Art” (Represenations 136, Fall 2016) for the Representations Special Issue Time Zones: Durational Art and Its Contexts.

For even more from Representations on Proust and photography, see Dora Zhang’s article “A Lens for an Eye: Proust and Photography” (Representations 118, Spring 2012).