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Proust, Class, and Nation$
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Edward J. Hughes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609864

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609864.001.0001

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Contexts for Class

Contexts for Class

(p.43) 2 Contexts for Class
Proust, Class, and Nation

Edward J. Hughes

Oxford University Press

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

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