Marcel Proust delivered in Search of Lost Time a brillant analysis on time, through the famous “Madeleine” (a french cookie)
The Proustian Madeleine crystallizes the theory of memory: As a child, Marcel’s aunt gave small madeleines dipped in tea. Adult, Proust realizes that the act of eating a madeleine again resurrected the context of his childhood.
Proust, madeleine and memory:
The madeleine is the symbol of the past that arises unintentionally. Proust traces the contours of a subjectivity that accumulates memories without realizing it (the madeleine, as each act, is lived naively), a subjectivity marked by the world passively. If analysts speak of “affective consciousness” to describe the emergence of memories, it is to emphasize the non-active dimension and assigned the matter: the memories come to him without being summoned.
The media are reminiscent of the smell and taste, in other words it is a sensual action, not an intellectual enterprise. But later, it is the consciousness that restores the thread of memory.
Past and present:
In fact, the theory says more than a madeleine: certain objects or odors call memories. This theory states rather than the past may now become, in other words that the subject can somehow bend time and break the dichotomy between past / present.
Proust thus draws a picture of jailed subjectivity in the past, unable to forget. Consciousness is riveted in the past and suffered his memory.
The dominant time of the human condition seems to be the past is in Proust. Man is essentially nostalgic.
Extract on the Madeleine – From Swann’s Way – In Search of Lost Time
“When a distant past nothing subsists, after the death of beings, after the destruction of things alone, more fragile but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste are still long, as souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of everything else, to wear without flinching, their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory. And as soon as I recognized the taste of the madeleine soaked piece of basswood that my aunt gave me (though I might know and Dusse not rely on much later to find out why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old gray house on the street, where his room, came as a stage apply to the little pavilion, overlooking the garden, which had been built for my parents in the rear (this part I had seen that only truncated previously) and with the house, the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I was sent before lunch, the streets where I was going shopping, paths that taking if the weather was fine. And in this game as the Japanese amuse themselves by soaking in a porcelain bowl filled with water, small pieces of paper which until then indistinct, hardly did they plunged stretch, to circumvent, stain , differentiate, become flowers, houses, consistent and recognizable characters, so now all the flowers in our garden and those of Mr. Swann Park, and the lilies of the Vivonne and the good people of the village and small house and the church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, all this taking shape and solidity, was released, city gardens, my cup of tea ”
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