Masters, Laws, and Servants

Edward J. Hughes

in Proust, Class, and Nation

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609864
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731761 | DOI:
Masters, Laws, and Servants

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This chapter begins by considering extracts from Proust’s correspondence with his broker before examining how the protagonist’s attempts to exercise his would-be sovereign will in Albertine disparue, often with the use of money, are ineffectual when faced with the workings of contingency. Proust’s Narrator cites numerous markers indicating high cultural and economic power and concludes implicitly that the display of ownership and dominance is incapable of reversing the loss of Albertine. The chapter further argues that delegation fails the novel’s bourgeois protagonist, the subaltern figures of Aimé and Françoise tasked with executing their master’s will acting in some degree independently. The tensions in class hierarchy thus become the conduit for an implied debate about social policing and the autonomy and rights of the subaltern. Centrally, the chapter argues, Albertine’s independence underlines her ability to resist a power that is gendered, class-specific, and metropolitan.

Keywords: economic power; gender; autonomy; Otherness; subaltern; social policing; loss; role reversal

Chapter.  10712 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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