Remembrance of Things Past: Final Post

Because my research process has been (comparatively) fairly simple, and because the progress of my project has proceeded more or less linearly, I think it more appropriate to return to the geneses of my research for this final post than to squander it on one more status update. Sometime around the end of the semester I approached my project advisor, Professor Heacox, and asked if he would suggest some readings in literary theory to keep me occupied. Besides two very different introductions to the topic, he gave me the syllabus for a course on theory that he used to teach and told me to acquire the anthology of which it makes use — Hazard Adams’s Critical Theory Since Plato. Thus equipped, I leafed through some essays and excerpts (Wilde, Trotsky, Keats) and dismissed others out of hand (Zola, Plato).

Four, however, I actually cited in my paper, so apparently I got something out of this cursory overview of theory. One of them was an off-hand allusion towards the beginning of my essay — Roland Barthes’s notion of the “death of the author,” which I found quite a convenient tool in banishing Proust from my paper. (Despite having read an extensive critical biography of the author, I would much rather write without him hovering about my shoulder.) The next I quoted just for a phrase of his, but his name was an important one to drop if for no other reason than to recognize that post-structuralism and deconstruction, though not terribly applicable to a formal structural analysis, have very valid points and should be kept in mind — Jacques Derrida.

The other two were much more helpful, I will even say essential, to my writing: the Russia formalist Victor Shklovsky and the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Shklovsky’s notion that art is that which foregrounds its artfulness was critical to my interpretation the ineluctable maze of “Proustian” syntax and narrative. Saussure had a much greater influence on my work, to the extent that I am quite incapable of saying exactly what it is that I owe to him, but I am sure the final ten pages could not have been conceived without reference to his system of linguistics and particularly the distinction he draws between syntagmic and associative structures of language.