« Notes on the Dreyfus Affair | Main | Reading for Our Eleventh Meeting, on December 5, 2012 »



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Thanks, Tom, for the very complete and altogether insightful summary. A couple of small things, just by way of emphasis (I obviously have a lot of, probably too many, opinions on the topic. . . ):

-- Proust was, I would say, more than a typical Dreyfusard -- the Affair played an enormous, even watershed role in his political consciousness, not least because, as with the Recherche narrator, his own household was split by the Affair (Dad as anti-Dreyfusard and his mom as Dreyfusard). Its relevance isn't necessarily self-evident, but Proust's beloved mother was Jewish. Moreover, Proust attended Zola's trial as Bloch does in the novel, thermos and sandwich in hand. Finally, his earlier novel Jean Santeuil, which provided some material and even method for Recherche, developed the Affair much more elaborately, highlighting again the role it had in his life.

-- I did a poor job of explaining this, but I wanted to emphasize not only that historical context plays a role in my reading of literature, but I think many great and lasting works of literature (those that become regarded as great and lasting, anyway) depict, as one of their key themes, some sort of significant social transition. Especially the celebrated modernist writers like T. Mann or Faulkner (and now, I would say, Franzen) are keenly aware of the social tectonics of their time and how these are, always and fundamentally, shifting. I think this helps answer one of the questions surrounding the Dreyfus affair in Recherche: of the many significant historical evens in Proust's Third Republic, why did he choose this one as the central one for his magnum opus? This historical event, perhaps more than other in its time, showed those shifting sands of (the) society as it slid into modernity.

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