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Proust And Signs

Proust And Signs: The Complete Text

Gilles Deleuze
Translated by Richard Howard
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Proust And Signs
    Book Description:

    In a remarkable instance of literary and philosophical interpretation, the incomparable Gilles Deleuze reads Marcel Proust's work as a narrative of an apprenticeship-more precisely, the apprenticeship of a man of letters. Considering the search to be one directed by an experience of signs, in which the protagonist learns to interpret and decode the kinds and types of symbols that surround him, Deleuze conducts us on a corollary search-one that leads to a new understanding of the signs that constitute A la recherche du temps perdu.

    In Richard Howard's graceful translation, augmented with an essay that Deleuze added to a later French edition,Proust and Signsis the complete English version of this work. Admired as an imaginative and innovative study of Proust and as one of Deleuze's more accessible works,Proust and Signsstands as the writer's most sustained attempt to understand and explain the work of art.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8642-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Note
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface to the Complete Text
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface to the 1972 Edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Works by Proust
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Part I. The Signs

    • CHAPTER 1 The Types of Signs
      (pp. 3-14)

      What constitutes the unity ofIn Search of Lost Time? We know, at least, what does not. It is not recollection, memory, even involuntary memory. What is essential to the Search is not in the madeleine or the cobblestones. On the one hand, 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.” On the other hand, Lost Time is not simply “time past”; it is also time wasted, lost track of. Consequently, memory intervenes as a...

    • CHAPTER 2 Signs and Truth
      (pp. 15-25)

      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. In love as much as in nature or art, it is not pleasure but truth that matters (I, 442). Or rather we have only the pleasures and joys that correspond to the discovery of what is true. The jealous man experiences a tiny thrill of joy when he can decipher one of the beloved’s lies, like an interpreter who succeeds in translating a complicated text, even if...

    • CHAPTER 3 Apprenticeship
      (pp. 26-38)

      Proust’s work is not oriented to the past and the discoveries of memory, but to the future and the progress of an apprenticeship. What is important is that the hero does not know certain things at the start, gradually learns them, and finally receives an ultimate revelation. Necessarily then, he suffers disappointments: he “believed,” he suffered under illusions; the world vacillates in the course of apprenticeship. And still we give a linear character to the development of the Search. As a matter of fact, a certain partial revelation appears in a certain realm of signs, but it is sometimes accompanied...

    • CHAPTER 4 Essences and the Signs of Art
      (pp. 39-51)

      What is the superiority of the signs of art over all the others? It is that the others are material. Material, first of all, by their emission: they are half sheathed in the object bearing them. Sensuous qualities, loved faces are still matter. (It is no accident that the significant sensuous qualities are above all odors and flavors: the most material of qualities.)Only the signs of art are immaterial.Of course Vinteuil’s little phrase is uttered by the piano and the violin. Of course it can be decomposed materially: five notes very close together, two of which recur. But...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Secondary Role of Memory
      (pp. 52-66)

      The worldly signs and the signs of love, in order to be interpreted, appeal to the intelligence. It is the intelligence that deciphers: on condition that it “comes after,” obliged to function under the pressure of that nervous exaltation that worldliness affords or that pain that love inspires. Doubtless intelligence mobilizes other faculties as well. We see the jealous man employing all the resources of mem -ory in order to interpret the signs of love—the beloved’s lies. But memory, not solicited directly here, can furnish only a voluntary aid. And precisely because it is only “voluntary,” memory always comes...

    • CHAPTER 6 Series and Group
      (pp. 67-83)

      The incarnation of essences proceeds in the signs of love and even in the worldly signs. Difference and repetition remain then the two powers of essence, which itself remains irreducible to the object bearing the sign, but also to the subject experiencing it. Our loves are not explicated by those we love nor by our ephemeral states at the moment we are in love. But how are we to reconcile the idea of a presence of essence with the deceptive character of the signs of love and with the empty character of the signs of worldliness? It is because essence...

    • CHAPTER 7 Pluralism in the System of Signs
      (pp. 84-93)

      The search for lost time is presented as a system of signs. But this system is pluralistic. Not only because the classification of signs involves many criteria, but because we must combine two distinct viewpoints in the establishment of these criteria. On the one hand, we must consider the signs from the viewpoint of an apprenticeship in process. What is the power and effectiveness of each type of sign? In other words, to what degree does it help to prepare us for the final revelation? What does it make us understand, in and of itself and at the moment, according...

    • CONCLUSION TO PART I The Image of Thought
      (pp. 94-102)

      If time has great importance in the Search, it is because every truth is a truth of time. But the Search is first of all a search for truth. Thereby is manifested the “philosophical” bearing of Proust’s work: it vies with philosophy. Proust sets up an image of thought in opposition to that of philosophy. He attacks what is most essential in a classical philosophy of the rationalist type: the presuppositions of this philosophy. The philosopher readily presupposes that the mind as mind, the thinker as thinker, wants the truth, loves or desires the truth, naturally seeks the truth. He...

  8. Part II. The Literary Machine

    • CHAPTER 8 Antilogos
      (pp. 105-115)

      Proust has his own way of experiencing the opposition of Athens and Jerusalem. He eliminates many things or many people in the course of the Search, and these form an apparently incongruous group: observers, friends, philosophers, talkers, homosexualsà la grecque,intellectuals. But all of them participate in thelogos, and are with varying qualifications the characters of a single universal dialectic: the dialectic as Conversation among Friends, in which all faculties are exercised voluntarily and collaborate under the leadership of the Intelligence, in order to unite the observation of Things, the discovery of Laws, the formation of Words, the...

    • CHAPTER 9 Cells and Vessels
      (pp. 116-130)

      To claim that Proust had the notion—even vague or confused—of the antecedent unity of the Search or that he found it subsequently, but as animating the whole from the start, is to read him badly, applying the ready-made criteria of organic totality that are precisely the ones he rejects and missing the new conception of unity he was in the process of creating. For it is surely from here that we must begin: the disparity, the incommensurability, the disintegration of the parts of the Search, with the breaks, lacunae, intermittences that guarantee its ultimate diversity. In this respect,...

    • CHAPTER 10 Levels of the Search
      (pp. 131-144)

      In a universe thus fragmented, there is no Logos that gathers up all the pieces, hence no law attaches them to a whole to be regained or even formed. And yet there is a law, but with a changed nature, function, and relation. The Greek world is a world in which the law is always secondary; it is a secondary power in relation to the logos that comprehends the whole and refers it to the Good. The law, or rather the laws, merely control the parts, adapt them, bring them together and unite them, establish in them a relative “better.”...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Three Machines
      (pp. 145-160)

      And the telescope functions. A psychic telescope for an “impassioned astronomy,” the Search is not merely an instrument Proust uses at the same time that he fabricates it. It is an instrument for others and whose use others must learn: “They would not be my readers, but the proper readers of themselves, my book being merely a kind of magnifying glass like the ones shown to the prospective buyer by the optician of Combray—my book, thanks to which I supplied them the means of reading within themselves. So that I would not ask them to praise me or to...

    • CHAPTER 12 Style
      (pp. 161-169)

      But just what is this form, and how are the orders of production or of truth, the machines, organized within each other? None has a function of totalization. The essential point is that the parts of the Search remain partitioned, fragmented,without anything lacking: eternally partial parts, open boxes and sealed vessels, swept on by time without forming a whole or presupposing one, without lacking anything in this quartering, and denouncing in advance every organic unity we might seek to introduce into it. When Proust compares his work to a cathedral or to a gown, it is not to identify...

    • CONCLUSION TO PART II Presence and Function of Madness: The Spider
      (pp. 170-182)

      The problem of art and madness in Proust’s work has not been raised. Perhaps this question has little or no meaning. Still less: was Proust mad? This question certainly has no meaning. Our concern is only with the presence of madness in Proust’s work and with the distribution, use, or function of this presence.

      For madness at least appears and functions under a different modality in two main characters, Charlus and Albertine. From Charlus’s first appearances, his strange gaze and his eyes themselves are characterized as those of a spy, a thief, a salesman, a detective, or amadman(I,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 183-188)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-189)