Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

French

Advisor

Evelyne Ender

Committee Members

Antoinette Blum

Marlene Barsoum

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | French and Francophone Language and Literature | French and Francophone Literature | History | Jewish Studies | Modern Literature | Political History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies

Keywords

Proust, Lazare, Glissant, France, Jews, Literature

Abstract

In my dissertation I use Auerbach's insights developed in his Mimesis to demonstrate that in A la recherche, Proust captures the political and racial concerns of his times, proposing as a solution a heterogeneous French society where cultural, ethnic, and religious groups live together in mutual respect and understanding. In his novel, Proust echoes ideas developed by Bernard Lazare in Le Nationalisme Juif (1897) as well as in the literary output of the first French Jewish Renaissance (early1900’s to the mid1930’s). These authors responded to the portentous mix of Nationalist and anti-Semitic politics by urging the creation of a separate French Jewish identity. This identity construction project was in contradiction with the policy of assimilation that French Jews had adhered to since their emancipation in 1791. I argue that Proust experiments with three models of Jewishness, illustrating in his fiction that these models are not stable but fluid. Through his representation of the actress Rachel, Albert Bloch, and Charles Swann, who becomes a Dreyfusard and a leader of the Jewish community, Proust anticipates the notions of difference and relation that have been developed by the Martiniquais Edouard Glissant, a major thinker of difference. Proust's portrayal of a Jewish community in making whose consciousness enables its being in relation with all other groups in France adumbrates the works of contemporary French Jewish writers. Similarly, in their writings about the Jewish experience, Albert Memmi, Helene Cixous and Jacques Derrida portray Jews aware of their Jewishness who desire to know other communities and, in Glissant’s terms, "to live Relation".

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