File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_2000/phillitcrit.0004, message 4

Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 10:44:34 -0500
Subject: Re: PLC: Why Proust? And Why Now?

PCR wrote:
> In response to the recent email on phil-lit-crit, I have no knowledge
> of Proust, but nor have I any competence in his  philosophical work
> (with no help from the article, too). So, bear this in mind, please,
> because I take issue with the biographical sketch of Proust.
> I don't know anything about Proust, but I did read the article and,
> now, I would probably avoid his work if not for some brief further
> research over the Internet. Regarding the below article, I have to ask

The trouble with the article seems to me to be that it's just an advert
for some new publications on Proust.  It's glossy, and focuses on his
sex life because that's what 'we' American readers respond to.  It might
get some new readers for Remembrance, even if just out of sexual
curiosity, and that can't be bad -- reading Proust is a consuming and
difficult thing to do, and given the complexity of Remembrance, might do
some minds some good.

> seems to concentrate on Proust's sexual life. 

Two 900+ page bios really must discuss more than just his sex life. 
Bios tend to assume that the author is not 'dead', that knowledge of the
life can in some ways thicken reading of the works.  
> The biography/autobigraphy enterprise seems a bit irrational, in my
> opinion, if it fails to show any contribution to warrant the
> enterprise as well as the life of the subject. What more, how does
> that business influence us? For what does it reflect on the person who
> is dead, and what does it contribute to their work? 

There is clearly a kind of read, and therefore a market, for whom such
information does add a layer of 'meaning' to the works.  Then there's
the whole issue of simply human curiosity.

It presupposes the
> possibility of shared experiences, 

So does a very great deal of literature.  So does, at some level and no
matter your views of the situation, the act of writing or speaking at

but is meant to enhance the
> historical event of that experience. If ever a science of a single
> person is possible, such an enterprise would seem to have this goal in
> mind.

Bios do not pretend to science, to complete knowledge. They understand
and expose their own partiality.
> In answer to the question: "why now?", I think it has a lot to do with
> the circulation of information these days about anything, and to such
> an extent that that information is received either from an educated
> perspective or not, but that without a historical conception of the
> means of that information, it is too novel to avoid, perhaps? 

The article seems to think so.  I can't speak to the bios as I've not
read them.

We think
> there is a single moral method narrowly patterned to fit our values
> and beliefs (which may be said to be exemplified by our intuitions),
> but the said or reported experiences of others becomes a challenge, a
> "shock", if it produces conflict, much in reverse of what apparently
> Proust would liken to any experience of his own, as an experiment
> (that which is now presupposed by our having some sort of knowledge
> about it). 

Help?  I need this unpacked.  It's interesting, but I'm not quite
following you here.

What luck and fortune to those who can earn a profit in
> biographing a person who can do nothing to prevent it? 

Well, one usually writes bios of the dead.  They make better
interpretive objects because they aren't going to change course. It's
convenient, no?  On the other hand, most of people who write bios enter
into that work as, they think, an act of homage, of adoration.  It's
such slogging, detailed, endless work that they would never complete the
project if they didn't "love" the subject of the Bo. 

> history, perhaps? Or, instant subjectivity? 

For whom?  In what terms?

It only seems to makes
> sense to be more complex than any common sense conception can make of
> a person, to be ever more novel than the ordinary can ever appreciate,
> but what a consumption is this that the person is indefensible if they
> advance any new knowledge and do not live to appreciate such esteem
> for their work? My sympathies to Proust.

Lost me again.
> Nothing is said about Proust's philosophy, which leads me to believe
> the author of the article is not concerned about it all. Readers
> beware, but for authors, oh boy......think ahead? Keep your sex life
> to yourself, and with your lover, maybe? Has anyone become suddenly
> horny and to have thought of Proust?

Two things here: Proust's philosophy is embedded in The Novel, which is
terribly long and complicated, so it's difficult to extract.  That
journalist obviously wasn't going to hunt it down for the general
reader, who won't care and who wouldn't buy the bios if she had.  As for
the privacy of private life, these days, good luck.  We're all made into
objects of other's observation -- not that I endorse such behavior.

Oh, no, you think just because I'm a junky
I can't have a Ph. D. in Literature, I'm not
smart?  Baby, I stay high so's I don't get MAD. 

	Whoopie Goldberg
		as The Junky

Simone Roberts
Ph.D. Candidate, Studies in Lit.
19 and 20 Century Euro-American Poetics, 
	Feminist Philosophy
The University of Texas-Dallas
School of Arts and Humanities
primary email:
secondary email:

Instructor, Art Institute of Dallas

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