This essay reviews Jacqueline Rose’s Proust among the Nations and Christopher Prendergast’s Mirages and Mad Beliefs: Proust the Skeptic in light of the political implications of their readings of In Search of Lost Time. Rose skillfully investigates explicit references to anti-Semitism and the Dreyfus Affair but downplays the political implications of Proust’s aesthetics. Her focus on psychoanalysis leads her incorrectly to interpret his lucidity about Marcel’s cruelty as latent repudiation. Prendergast invokes nation and citizenship in his analysis of Proustian skepticism but largely neglects broader political trends. His belief that the Search’s argument is holistic rather than progressive also undermines his pivotal analysis of illusion. Although Rose and Prendergast give careful and productive readings of Proust, their commitment to redeeming his vision exposes flaws in their analysis. This essay then proposes that In Search of Lost Time contains important clues to the working of contemporary American politics, specifically the mind-set of the Republican Far Right. In both, fears of otherness and helplessness lead to conservative myths of redemption that privilege adherence to ideology over prevention of human suffering. Republicans craft stories that position them as involuntary victims, even as they act as aggressors. Issues including the racial politics of Barack Obama’s presidency, income inequality, gun control, the “War on Women,” and gay marriage all share similarities with the ideology of Proust’s aesthetics. This essay concludes that finding these structural similarities, even where Rose and Prendergast would not wish to see them, is essential to discovering how to combat them.
Sarah Bagley; Proust among the Politicians. boundary 2 1 May 2015; 42 (2): 177–193. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2866731
Download citation file: