Abstract

This article undertakes the first comparative analysis of Le Pèlerinage à l’île de Cythère (1717) and the opening of À la recherche du temps perdu. Pursuing close readings of a specific sequence within Combray II, the author foregrounds and problematizes overlooked affinities, both thematic and representational, between the two works, with a view to broaden the debate not only around Proust’s painterly references but also around the ways in which “influence” and “intermediality” are understood in the scholarship. Emphasizing in particular the sensuous, aesthetic, and social dimensions of modern love as they appear in the Cythera-like nature of the Méséglise way during the buildup to the Gilberte encounter, the author suggests that Marcel found in nature’s flamboyancy both a ground and a reflection of his own impulse toward unrestrained libido, aristocratic leisure, and the eternal. Ultimately, the author argues that Watteau enables us to rethink Proust’s relationship to modernity, and that, in turn, Proust’s writing adds new potentialities to our exploration of Watteau.

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