Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital city, in which Marcel is reared in an upper-middle-class family within the best part of central Paris. Much of the action of the novels takes place in the apartments, palaces, parks, hotels, and restaurants exclusive to the important members of Paris society. This society is ruled by the remnants of the former French aristocracy, still living with considerable splendor in their elegant apartments in the Faurboug Saint-Germain, an old, fashionable district on the left side of the River Seine in central Paris.

Verdurin salon

Verdurin salon (VEHR-duhr-ihn). Gathering place hosted by Madame Verdurin, a rich social climber of no consequence who accumulates a dubious group of people in her expensive home for regular soirées. The Verdurins represent the second-rate society world, on the edge of the smartest Paris hierarchy. Madame Verdurin’s guests are a mixed bag of the newly rich; young gentlemen looking for a good time, often slumming with people of lesser social position; professional men of some repute but socially unimportant; young artists, musicians, and the occasional fashionable prostitute. Marcel occasionally visits the Verdurins, associating below his station. A silly, vindictive, stupid woman, Madame Verdurin represents in her salon the vulgarity of the bourgeoisie. However, she manages in the long run of life to ascend, because of her wealth (after the death of her equally vulgar husband), and marry an aristocrat, with whom she enters the salons of the nobility.

*Champs-Elysees Garden

*Champs-Elysees Garden (shahn-zay-leh-ZAY). Park in the center of Paris where Marcel plays as a child and where he becomes a friend of Gilberte, the daughter of Swann and Odette. This relationship,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Deleuze, Gilles. Proust and Signs. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: George Braziller, 1972. Deleuze’s landmark reading of Proust depicts the work as a search in which the disillusioned narrator learns to decode and discard the signs of worldliness and the signs of love, concluding that only the signs of art offer a kind of fulfillment that can withstand the corrosive force of time.

De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. Uses Proust to manifest the uncertainty of meaning by documenting the disjunction between grammar and rhetoric in the work.

Genette, Gérard. “Proust Palimpsest” and “Proust and Indirect Language.” In Figures in Literary Discourse, translated by Alan Sheridan. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1982. A classic analysis of Proust’s use of figurative devices in general and of metaphor in particular.

Hill, Leslie. “Proust and the Art of Reading.” Comparative Criticism 2 (1980): 167-185. Uses Proust’s text to test the reader response theories of Roland Barthes, who posits a new kind of reader in the aftermath of the death of the author. Hill’s work is the definitive article on reader response theory and Proust.

Kristeva, Julia. Proust and the Sense of Time. Translated by Stephen Bann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Kristeva’s insightful reading is grounded in an investigation of the genesis of meaning. She traces the successive stages of subjectivity through which Proust’s narrator passes.