Together with Prof Suzanne Guerlac (UC Berkely), I am organizing a special session on 'Proust and photography', which will include 3 papers. The topic is not new: since the publication of Brassai’s Proust in the Power of Photography (first published in French in 1997), photography has been a key concern for Proust scholars, most often, though not exclusively, from the perspective of how the medium figures in Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu) in both literal and figurative ways. In keeping with the recent turn towards visual culture in French studies, and on the heels of the 2017 rediscovery of a 1904 film-clip showing a few seconds of Proust descending a flight of steps (the only known film footage of the author), this special session assesses hitherto under-analyzed aspects of the photographic image in Proust’s life and work through the prism of his cultural-historical period. Its specific focus is the fragmented, intermittent, and interstitial character and effect of photography, both in relation to the reception of Proust the author and the interpretation of his novel. The individual papers, which will showcase visual material, address this broad session topic by way of 1) key episodes related to the crucial photograph of the grandmother in Proust’s novel; 2) Proust’s kaleidoscopic vision; and 3) the photographic representation of Proust himself. All three papers question a straightforwardly referential relation between the photograph and what it shows, and address the complex, historically overdetermined interrelations between image and text. The session will speak to students and scholars with expertise in Proust, while also reaching beyond the discipline of French studies to engage a wider audience with interest and expertise in modernism, theory and thought, visual culture, photography, and film. Each paper will last no longer than 20 minutes, leaving enough time for an anticipated lively and exiting discussion among audience and panelists.
Speakers and paper titles are as follows:
1) The Intermittent Photograph, by Suzanne Guerlac (UC Berkely)
2) Reviewing the Recherche through Painting, Photography, and Journalism, by Max McGuinness (Columbia U)
3) ‘Une vie trouée’: Proust, photography, authorship, by Kathrin Yacavone (U of Nottingham)
The session will take place on Friday 5 January at 8.30am.