Memory and imagination in the works of Gustave Flaubert and Marcel Proust
The aim of the study is to examine the portrayal of memory and imagination in the works of Flaubert and Proust. Detailed analysis of the faculties begins with a study of the novels Madame Bovary, L1Education sentimentale, Salammbo and A la recherche du temps perdu, (for the most part in Du cote de chez Swann and A 1'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs). Various aspects of memory are investigated first: the manner in which memory arises, the visual and emotional intensity of the mental image; and the distinction between voluntary and involuntary memory. The "petite madeleine" episode from Du cote de chez Swann, often used as an example of involuntary memory, is examined and found to be less a psychologically accurate episode than a structural and thematic device designed to carry the importance of involuntary memory through the narrative. Many instances of memory do not end with a return to reality, but continue into the sphere of imagination. The extent to which the latter faculty depends on memory is considered, together with the importance of physical desire as a catalyst for mental activity. In spite of the often ferocious motivation behind such projections, both imagination and memory are subject to fading and ultimate destruction. The imagery used to convey the full experience of the faculties is then examined. Proust and Flaubert select images from a relatively restricted range, a surprising feature in view of their general stylistic differences. Both express the visual and emotional worth of the faculties through images of bright, radiant light? while the mind's activity of motion and searching is depicted by the motif of the journey. The expression of individual sensibilities is conveyed for Proust through the image of the painting, denoting both the visual and potentially creative reference of the mental image; and by Flaubert through images of flux and fluidity which suggest the loss of some precious substance. The emergence of negative associations in Chapters I and II calls for an examination of the motivation behind the denigration of characters' attempts to manipulate their mental images. Proust and Flaubert employ various devices to point up the erroneous use of the faculties. Proust's chosen technique is an often gentle, but effective, humorous attack. Flaubert, for his part, employs a more caustic, ironical technique. Memory escapes relatively lightly, with the main attack being reserved for the imagination. The semi-creative action of the imagination - the way in which elements from memory are forced, along with new material, into often ridiculous combinations - is a target of the most sustained attack. In order to determine the motivation behind the attack, and to trace the means by which Flaubert and Proust arrive at their acute moral sense regarding memory and imagination, their development from the juvenile works is traced. At this early stage they are found to be prey to faults which are later criticised in their characters. The progress of creative maturity is linked to the emergence of one dominant idea, or organising principle, in their fiction. Before .the expression of memory and imagination can undergo the final transformation from their autobiographical basis, some dramatic enlightening event is required. The episode of the dog in La Premiere Education sentimentale, and that of the Guermantes matinee in Le Temps retrouve, occasion the redirection of memory and imagination towards expression in the work of art. Attention then shifts to the portrayal of the faculties in La Tentation de Saint Antoine, Les Trois contes, and the latter volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu. The main concerns here are in the areas of spirituality, solitude and suffering, each of which is felt by the authors to be an essential element of the act of creation. Imagery associated with memory and imagination extends the earlier positive associations of light, while more explicit reference to the creative mind is made in the image of the enclosed room. Proust and Flaubert are thus shown to have a wide-ranging interest in depicting the life of the mind. Although the common emotional experience of memory and imagination are related in often intimate detail, their main concern lies in the creative potential of the faculties.