Contexts for Class

Edward J. Hughes

in Proust, Class, and Nation

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609864
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731761 | DOI:
Contexts for Class

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The contexts for understanding class considered in this chapter aim to set the views of Proust alongside those of his French literary contemporaries. Paul Bourget’s negative characterization of social-class movement contrasts with Proust’s position in the longer term. The chapter argues nevertheless that this does not equate to a socially egalitarian position on Proust’s part. He steers clear of the Université Populaire movement and implicitly rejects Ruskin’s call to the bourgeois writer to acknowledge the social price paid by the subaltern to ensure the availability of sufficient ‘psychical’ energy to the few. In the young Marcel’s pursuit of literature in Proust’s Combray, the musings of the young idler-reader and the comings and goings of domestic servants are held together, largely without tension, as segments of an uncontested provincial order.

Keywords: Bourget; déclassement; Université Populaire; Ruskin; military culture; republican identity; street as theatre

Chapter.  19738 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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