Spiritualism, Spiritism, phenomenology, Proust, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty


A psychical researcher among Marcel Proust’s contemporaries called belief in the paranormal “the Dreyfus case of science.” References to spirit-life abound in Proust’s fiction, but critics have resisted readings that attend seriously to the numerous references in À la recherche du temps perdu to reincarnation, spirit-possession, and, especially, mediumship. The paper reads them through the lens of long-standing critical controversies, particularly concerning the relationship of Proust’s aesthetics and ontology with those of Henri Bergson and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The paper accepts Nathalie Aubert’s finding in her 2011 essay “Proust et Bergson: La mémoire du corps” that Proust’s insistence on embodiment validates the reluctance of critics since Georges Poulet to connect him with Bergson and makes him, in a sense, a phenomenologist avant la lettre. The paper argues, however, that for Proust a phenomenological interpretation neglects some varieties of experience, and it investigates ways metaphors, particularly in the context of musical performance, drawn from spiritualism inflect his phenomenology and address its limitations.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.