The Syllables of Time
Proust and the History of Reading

Teresa Whitington

Research Monographs in French Studies 26

Legenda

17 July 2009  •  128pp

ISBN: 978-1-906540-24-1 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ISBN: 978-1-315085-11-1 (Taylor & Francis ebook)

ModernFrenchFiction


This study reveals reading to be one of the main activities to occupy the inhabitants of the world of Marcel Proust's novel A la recherche du temps perdu. Characters do not only read books, they have access to the journals and newspapers of a rapidly expanding print industry. They receive letters and postcards from family and friends. The posters of a nascent advertising industry tempt them to spend an evening at the theatre or a holiday by the sea, and new forms of communication, such as telegraphy, enter their lives. All human activity is glossed by means of a series of metaphors of reading, extending the reader's domain beyond the written text. Through a series of illuminating analyses, Teresa Whitington shows how this web of references builds into a specifically Proustian account of both the outer, social context of reading and the inner, psychological world of the reader. Proust offers a contribution to the history of reading in the France of his own lifetime and suggests that reading is the very condition of the writing of his fiction.

Teresa Whitington is a librarian working in Dublin.

Reviews:

  • ‘En faisant de la lecture et des livres, le cœur de la Recherche, A. Watt et T. Whitington soulignent et établissent, en fin de compte, une communauté de lecteurs; la récurrence des épisodes de lecture invite nécessairement le lecteur du roman à s'interroger sur sa propre condition et sur ses identifications possibles avec le héros. Par un effet de miroir récurrent, le lecteur est amené à se voir lire, à retrouver ses sensations de lectures d'enfance et à se poser inévitablement la question de l'écriture. T. Whitington en proposant un judicieux rapprochement entre un passage de Jeunes filles et le Contre Sainte-Beuve identifie cette communauté de lecteurs. Le narrateur, évoquant en effet le «cœur de celui qui, assassin dans la vie, reste tendre comme amateur de feuilletons, [et se tourne] vers le faible, le juste et le persécuté», semble se souvenir du credo que défend le narrateur du Contre Sainte-Beuve, selon lequel il convient de distinguer nettement le moi social du moi créateur.’ — Matthieu Vernet; joint review with Adam Watt, Reading in Proust’s À la Recherche, OUP 2009, Fabula 26 April 2010
  • ‘Manages to address some of the complex and multi-layered realities at play in any history of reading and provides some valuable evidence for Proust’s significant contribution to such a history.’ — Kathrin Yacavone, Modern Language Review 106.4, 2011, 1162-63 (full text online)

Bibliography entry:

Whitington, Teresa, The Syllables of Time: Proust and the History of Reading, Research Monographs in French Studies, 26 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009)

First footnote reference: 35 Teresa Whitington, The Syllables of Time: Proust and the History of Reading, Research Monographs in French Studies, 26 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Whitington, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Whitington, Teresa. 2009. The Syllables of Time: Proust and the History of Reading, Research Monographs in French Studies, 26 (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Whitington 2009: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Whitington 2009: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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