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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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Balbec: A New Sociality

Balbec: A New Sociality

(p.111) 4 Balbec: A New Sociality
Proust, Class, and Nation

Edward J. Hughes

Oxford University Press

The chapter explores how the adolescent hero Marcel’s trip to the seaside resort of Balbec spells a crucial broadening in his socialization. It is argued that as a site of transition and social-class mobility, Balbec confronts an insecure hero with the expanding world of fin de siècle leisure. The town takes Marcel out of the caste-like fixity of Combray society and throws up a new, provisional sociality in which the cross-class rivalries of everyday life are reciprocated. New wealth and arrivisme are key points of focus in the social comedy which the Narrator constructs with often ludic intensity. In its consideration of the textual genesis of A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, the chapter also focuses on how the Narrator works with contrasting images of would-be vulgar, new leisure and the hero’s search for artistic inspiration in nature.

Keywords:   fin de siècle, leisure, arrivisme, vulgar, class rivalry, Frenchness

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