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Proust and Signs: The Complete Text
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Auxiliary Reading (w/Spoilers) > Gilles Deleuze: Proust and Signs

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 18, 2012 04:43PM) (new)

**** WARNING: THIS THREAD MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ****

I'm currently reading Deleuze's Proust and Signs. This is a thread for discussion of that book, if anyone's reading it too.

No need for a schedule here: feel free to dip in and discuss if and when you get into the book.

The spoilers warning is because the book refers to all parts of the Recherche, and I don't think it makes much sense to limit the discussion here only to books that have already been read according to the schedule.


message 2: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Joshua, I think I already asked this question somewhere, but in general, do you think Proust & Signs would be better understood after completing the entire ISOLT? Or can it be enjoyed after the first 3 volumes?


message 3: by Nick (last edited Dec 20, 2012 12:51AM) (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments I am not Joshua (sorry) but I have been working on Proust and Signs. Have you read the whole series, Jim? The reason is, in deconstructing the Search (and reconstructing from that his own interpretation and system of understanding) Deleuze investigates some episodes that take place in the final volume.

Therefore, you might have to infer what's happened (or to happen) in that volume, though Deleuze does give context and explains the linkages in those episodes.

Because of that, there'd be "spoilers" including one of the biggest ones in the whole work.

The final volume is the one that knits the whole series together(well, in my opinion!) Every little thread that has been woven in the beautiful tapestry preceding it comes together to form a final image of personal reconciliation and decision and determination.


message 4: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Nick wrote: "I am not Joshua (sorry) but I have been working on Proust and Signs. Have you read the whole series, Jim? The reason is, in deconstructing the Search (and reconstructing from that his own interpret..."

Thanks Nick! No I've only read the first two. I'll plan on looking at this around the end of November or so - or maybe I'll skim a little bit here and there.


message 5: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments End of Nov would be a good plan...or Jan 2014 :D Or...Nov 2014. Let it settle and ruminate then reconfigure your settled views by trying this Deleuze!


message 6: by Kalliope (new) - added it

Kalliope Nick wrote: "End of Nov would be a good plan...or Jan 2014 :D Or...Nov 2014. Let it settle and ruminate then reconfigure your settled views by trying this Deleuze!"

I may join you in November...!!


message 7: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Kalliope wrote: "Nick wrote: "End of Nov would be a good plan...or Jan 2014 :D Or...Nov 2014. Let it settle and ruminate then reconfigure your settled views by trying this Deleuze!"

I may join you in November...!!"


Great! I have Barth's Giles Goat-Boy scheduled to read at that time, so it can be a real academic think-fest...

Scanning wikipedia for Deleuze, it might be good to skim a little Descartes and Husserl before jumping into the Deleuze - bandwidth permitting...


message 8: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments You could so skim, but really not necessary. It is traditional symbolic deconstruction and re-construction.

His critical system really is based on signs, and he sort of goes from first principles, telling you how he defines signs, types of signs etc, and how Proust can be fitted into that system of seeing and thinking in signs.

I started to read it, but got bogged down and it has been neglected lately. So, perhaps the info I have given above might not be too accurate, as I have not read it all yet.

I think I will need till Nov 2013 to finish it!


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I found Deleuze's starting point quite thought-provoking:
What is essential to the Search is not in the madeleine or the cobblestones...the Search is not simply an effort of recall, an exploration of memory: search, recherche, is to be taken in the strong sense of the term, as we say 'the search for truth'.

And later:
The search for lost time is in fact a search for truth. If called a search for lost time, it is only to the degree that truth has an essential relation to time...



message 10: by Nick (last edited Dec 29, 2012 04:09PM) (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments Interesting. What is the quality of that truth, for us as readers and if different, for GD?

I would answer with my usual echo of Bloom (though without Bloom's constant focus of the psychosexual drama of the book as its main point of interest!) For me that truth is: wisdom.

I wonder about that second graf. How is truth related to time? chronology of years and the debris of memory, tinctured down into revelation through involuntary memory (leading again to wisdom that comes with reflection?)

Perhaps this is why Proust disliked Moncrieff's rendering. It truly is a search, it took the Narrator his whole life and to come to a point if action, and took Proust approx 14 years of writing (longer if we think of JS as a shaky first draft) to show that struggle.

However, a more likely interpretation (that may be closer to what I think Deleuze means?) is that through involuntary memory we access a privileged place where we come to understand Time in its essential state, to see oneself as a temporal being yet temporarily escaped and released from its grip. ('a morsel of time in its pure state' [III, 872] is not a simple resemblance between the present and the past..." pg 39 to 40 in my Continuum Impact edition.) I have however stalled on pg 46.


message 11: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments I have just been reading Carter's bio and he renders it as "In the shade of girls in blossom".
I like "shade" as it suggests languor and Summer days (quite apt given the Cabourg...oops, Balbec I mean! setting). Shadow sounds slightly oppressive, but is literal and also perhaps more true. P comes under their influence and begins an awakening, and the seeds and intimations of darker desires are planted.


message 12: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments Mm. True. I wonder if to a native French speaker "l'ombre" conjures up all the above, shade/shadow, longing/languor...?


message 13: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Nick wrote: "Mm. True. I wonder if to a native French speaker "l'ombre" conjures up all the above, shade/shadow, longing/languor...?"

I'm not a native speaker, but I hear it most often used to indicate shade, as in park the car "dan l'ombre".

En anglais, shade connotes shelter for me. Something to protect you from the sun.

Shadow feels more like someone/thing you're following, or pursuing, or as P suggests, longing for. It also has a connotation of a place where something unknown might be lurking.

I read vol. 2 at the beginning of 2012, but wasn't thinking too much about the title. Will pay closer attention to that aspect during this year o'Proust.


message 14: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments I guess I should ahve mae it clear that non-native but very confident speakers of French are also allowed to comment :P Indeed, I see shade as protection too. Shadow does convey also the "he has been constantly in her shadow" or "he lived in her shadow", i.e. a person influenced by a stronger personality, such as the entire Band of girls' at Balbec.

I always found it a very interesting title, but never thought too closely about it. Mind you something like "Seaside Fun" or "What I Did on Holiday" would work for me as long as the text would've remained as beautiful as in "L'ombre"!.


message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 07, 2013 03:31PM) (new)

I'm finding Deleuze's conception of 'worldly signs' very illuminating, particularly with Marcel's disastrous misreading of how to interact with his uncle. Also, in a nearby passage, he talks about the posters for the theatre, and how he imagines the theatre to be.

Seems misreading of the signs - more or less fruitful misunderstandings - is a recurrent theme in the Recherche. The reading of things as the same when they are different, or different when they are the same (Guermantes / Méséglise).


message 16: by Nick (last edited Jan 09, 2013 07:44AM) (new) - added it

Nick Wellings | 322 comments Quite so. The misreading of signs is how the novel advances.

I find the Woman In Pink/Uncle section a very strong moment. The tiny sentence where the Narrator passes him in the street and averts his gaze as he doesn't know what to do or say, and how he never spoke to his Uncle again and he died...it's brief but telling. The Uncle himself mis-reads Narrator's gesture too. He thinks the child is "cutting" him, on orders of his parents.

So too, Bergotte (mis-read as a minor hack) Cottard (seen as a provincial sawbones) Gilberte's "indecent gesture" (there is a whole essay on that which I found wonderful) Charlus seen as Odette's mistress, Swann as a mere son of a stockbroker.

So too, the main theme of the Names. The Duchess is definitely not like Genevieve Brabant, especially with a pimple by her nose. As with everything Proust shows that possession is frustrated, which includes possession of sense, the "right" meaning of any sign.

Or perhaps not...perhaps they are signs rightly read at the time, as one reads only through the frame of current subjective perspective - and it is only with the growth and evolution of characters and knowledge that we (or Narrator) come to reflect, and see that our initial interpretations were incorrect.


As Proust said he was writing a book, establishing the characters in Swann's Way, only to completely subvert our impressions of them in the later volume. To acomplish that, the Narrator's concepts must be subverted and he must mis-read to re-read, to re-assess and to bring in the elements both of subjectivity (people change according to when, where and who sees them) and temporal flux (people change as to where on our timeline they are, which consciousness or narrative lens is in use) etc.

Does Deleuze talk about Charlus' mysterious handshake to Narrator at Balbec? I would have to re-read from the beginning.

EDITED: to add, (how could I forget!) Vinteuil is seen as a minor composer until his daughter rehabilitates his legacy by acting as copyist and keeper of his flame (so to speak). I am quite sure there are more relevant (worldly) signs in ISOLT too.


message 17: by Kalliope (last edited Jan 09, 2013 03:38AM) (new) - added it

Kalliope Nick wrote: "Quite so. The misreading of signs is how the novel advances.

I find the Woman In Pink/Uncle section a very strong moment. The tiny sentence where the Narrator passes him in the street and averts h..."


So far, I can only discuss the first episode, the Woman in Pink/Uncle section, but the sad ending of the good relationship with the Uncle points also to the divergence between the "Profond moi" and the exterior self. His behavior, which is what the Uncle can observe, does not correspond to his inner feelings. And the serious misunderstanding ensues.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

There are so many cross-purposes and misunderstandings in the Recherche, aren't there - sometimes I want to reach into the pages and give one character or another a shake!


message 19: by Kalliope (new) - added it

Kalliope Joshua wrote: "There are so many cross-purposes and misunderstandings in the Recherche, aren't there - sometimes I want to reach into the pages and give one character or another a shake!"

And they happen in real life too... La recherche is a reminder...!!


message 20: by Dipanjan (new)

Dipanjan Maitra | 3 comments Since this is a thread for discussion on Deleuze's 'Proust and Signs' perhaps one might also want to look up Deleuze's 'Difference and Repetition' which has in my opinion a very important section on Proust called 'Note on the Proustian Experiences'. This is from the chapter called 'Repetition for Itself' where Deleuze develops the concept of the 'dark precursor'.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for that, Dipanjan! I'll see if I can add that chapter to the references list.


Aloha I have lots of Deleuze's work except Proust and Signs. I just got it yesterday. Thanks to my pal, you know who you are. I'm pretty sure I have Difference and Repetition, too. I'll have to check.


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