Áine Larkin – Playing on the Nerves: Performances Musical and Sexual in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu

The Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway University of London (HARC)

Event Date: Friday 11 June, 2010 – 10am-6pm

The Boardroom, 2 Gower Street, London


Unsettling Scores: A Study Day on French Musico-Poetics from Banville to Duras

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Áine Larkin (UCL/RHUL):
Playing on the Nerves: Performances Musical and Sexual in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu

In Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927), music plays a significant and recurrent role as a model for transient art providing an auditory parallel for the kind of writing in which the protagonist wishes to engage. Musical performance conveys truths to the protagonist Marcel about the fleeting nature of time and the fugitive mutability of characters, relationships, and more specifically, their sexualities. Based on a close reading of key passages featuring performances on the pianola, piano, and violin, as well as one manqué, my paper will explore how musical instruments and their manipulation are appropriated for communicating information about sexuality which proves germane to the realisation of Marcel’s creative literary vocation. Musical instruments are shown to constitute a link between mundane lived reality and the life of the imagination in Proust’s novel in which performance dissolves the boundaries between these two aspects of the protagonist’s experience.

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