Chapter four examines Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1913–1927) in the context of the modernist novel’s preoccupation with representing consciousness. Proust’s aesthetic philosophy explores both the capacities and the limits of any person’s affective and sensory receptivity and expressiveness. Contrasting Proust’s representations of his narrator against Elaine Scarry’s notion of literature as a means of creating and sharing experiences of beauty, the chapter shows that Proust seeks not simply to validate his narrator’s sensitivity, but to stress the temporariness of the moments when this sensitivity becomes meaningful and important to others. Proust’s narrator must ultimately come to terms with how much less others care about his thoughts and feelings than he does. The difficulty of this task is represented both in comic terms and as a serious challenge to an understanding of the novel as a genre that claims to validate an individual’s experience of her world.
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