Young Proust and the visual arts: vision, perception, aesthetics
This thesis explores the relationship between the early writings of Marcel Proust and the visual arts through a phenomenological approach drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception. Proust’s juvenilia are studied in four chapters with regard to respectively four genres of painting: genre scenes and still lives, in particular by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Chardin; garden scenes and landscapes of the botanical world as depicted in Ruskin, Monet, and the Pre-Raphaelites; seascapes and atmosphere depiction in Turner, Monet, and Whistler; portrait paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Blanche. The thesis does not aim to trace any direct influences of these painters on Proust, but, rather seeks to identify aesthetic commonalities between Proust and these artists, with an emphasis on their similar visions and ways of perception. It will pay particular attention to the aspects of colour and light, as well as space and time, making use of the Merleau-Pontian theory that underlines a participatory mode of perception where the body integrated with the world occupies a pivotal position. The thesis addresses the uniqueness of the young Proust’s vision as an apprentice stage, which allows us to identify early aesthetic tendencies that will be developed in À la recherche du temps perdu.