Site hosted by Build your free website today!
MARCEL PROUST (1871-1922)

by Prof. Gregory Woods (Nottingham Trent University)

from The Gay & Lesbian Literary Heritage, ed. Claude J. Summers (New York: Henry Holt, 1995), which is the best references work on GLBT Literature. CAPITALIZED WORDS refer to related articles in the book.

>>> In addition to the below essay, here is an excellent general introduction to Proust's life and works.

>>> Note About Edition Referenced: "The present essay cites the English translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff" and NOT the Kilmartin version which most of us are reading - so page references will be different.

Marcel Proust was born in 1871. His Jewish mother was highly educated; his father was a distinguished professor of hygiene. Proust had a comfortable and protected bourgeois childhood - all the more cosseted after the age of nine when he had the first in a lifelong sequence of debilitating asthma attacks. Three years later, he began to masturbate, usually locking himself away in the lavatory at the top of his parents' house. At school, his interests were focused mainly in the areas of literature, philosophy, botany, and history - subjects that would all exert a strong influence on his fiction. At the age of eighteen, he did a year's military service at Orleans, an experience that would also significantly shape the fiction. After taking degrees in law (1893) and philosophy (1895) at the Sorbonne, he embarked on a relatively leisurely existence consisting of social visits, neurotic illnesses, and the writing of belles lettres. In 1895, he also started trying to write a massive autobiographical novel, Jean Santeuil (unpublished until 1952). This book is marred by a basic structural weakness that the author never managed to resolve. The result is a rambling and episodic narrative with insufficient thematic unity to make it cohere. After working on it for four years, Proust abandoned it. His emotional and sexual life, meanwhile, took on a distinct pattern. Although he conducted a series of chivalrous romantic affairs with prominent society hostesses, his closest encounters were with men. With his social equals or betters, he formed intense romantic friendships that may, on occasion, have been sexual; but his main love affairs were with servants - the most important of these being his chauffeur Alfred Agostinelli, whom he met in 1907. Proust also had encounters that were purely sexual, these invariably with men of a lower social class. The deaths of his father (1903) and mother (l905), though causing him intense and lasting pain, left him freer to organize his life around his erotic needs.

In about 1909, Proust began his second large-scale attempt at autobiographical fiction. He spent the rest of his life writing A la recherche du temps perdu and never completed it to his own satisfaction. Yet the novel is one of the major documents of Modernist subjectivity (particularly regarding its concern with the nature of time and involuntary memory). Furthermore, by any standard, it is a great gay novel. The present essay cites the English translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, which has itself attained a classic status: What with all its eccentricities and errors, it can now be seen as a CAMP tour de force.

The key characters around whom Proust teases out the topic of homosexuality are Robert de Saint-Loup, the Baron Palamede ("me'me'") de Charlus, Albertine Simonet, and the narrator himself. Saint-Loup first appears to Marcel, and therefore to the reader, as a lover of women: His affair with Rachel is protracted and intense. But later in life, even though he marries Gilberte Swann, Saint-Loup develops his interest in men, and his last great love is Charles Morel. Little information reaches us about his affairs with men because Marcel hears only rumors of them, often at third hand. More visible is the Baron de Charlus, the great comic character Proust based on the poet Robert de Montesquiou, among others. He, too, appears first as if heterosexual - he is reputed, early on, to be the lover of Odette de Crecy - but he becomes Proust's most detailed representation of a man-loving man. His loves are many and varied, but the affair to which the narrator has clearest access is the one with Charles Morel (prior to Saint-Loup's liaison with the same).

Charlus is vain and snobbish, by turns demonstratively masculine and abjectly effeminate, both silly and profound. His life spans the whole period of the novel, and his intimacies bridge the social spectrum from palace to gutter. His erotic interests are especially varied as he grows older toward the end of the novel, when he develops a taste for small boys (XII, 95) and pays working-class men in Jupien's brothel to whip and humiliate him. In his relations with Marcel, he is both generous and haughty, and always unpredictable. ANDRE GIDE had turned the novel down for publication by the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, on the spurious grounds that Proust was a socialite whose book was probably just fictionalized gossip about the beau monde. He lived to regret this careless decision when he discovered what the book was really like. However, he never approved of its representations of what he regarded as the negative aspects of homosexuality. The Baron de Charlus represented most of the things from which, in both his writings and his own life, Gide was at pains to distance himself. As he said in a letter to Proust (June 14, 1914), he was worried that readers would take the complex individual Charlus as a representative of a type. It seems he did not want to be tarred with that brush.

Because Marcel, the narrator, is fascinated by those who do not fit into strictly heterosexual patterns of social and sexual intercourse, A la recherche du temps perdu returns to the topic of homosexuality again and again. Lesbianism is raised, chiefly as a phantom, when for hundreds of pages Marcel fusses about whether his beloved Albertine has had affairs with other young women. As suspicion turns to paranoia, lesbianism is thus defined in a context of heterosexual jealousy. (Similarly, Charles Swann lengthily interrogates Odette, when she is still his mistress, about whether she has had affairs with other women. She has. II, 200-215) As it turns out after her accidental death, Albertine was indeed predominantly lesbian (XI, 179-183); but by this time, for Marcel, the heat has gone out of the matter. The book's most haunting lesbian scene occurs in the first volume but echoes throughout the next eleven: This is the occasion that Marcel witnesses at Montjouvain - characteristically prying through the window of a private house - when Mlle Vinteuil makes love with her girlfriend whilst desecrating a photograph of her own father (I, 218-227). The scene gives Marcel a crucial insight into the cruel side of the human heart.

In truth, the account of the relationship between Albertine and Marcel is far less about a woman's sexuality than about a man's obsession with it. His suspicions turn him into something of an expert - at least, to his own satisfaction - on the culture and customs of Gomorrah. Likewise, his abiding interest in the Baron de Charlus gives him an education in the customs of the Sodomites. As a consequence, the novel contains several long essays on homosexuality, which display a fascinating combination of speculation, invention, ignorance, and solid information. Whether one should blame the ignorance on Marcel or Proust is a moot point. The generous view is to regard many of Marcel's utterances as being written by Proust at a considerable ironic distance.

Among the views expressed at various points in the novel are the following. Homosexual people - or rather "inverts," the term with which Proust is happier - constitute not only a race apart, like the Jews, but a cursed race (la race maudite) who often support one another by the secretive means of a kind of international freemasonry. Inversion should not be categorized as a vice, even if there are plenty of inverts who are vicious. Some remain solitary; others socialize and organize with their own kind. Inversion has extensive parallels, both literal and symbolic, within the world of botany. It is possible to detect such people by observing details of behavior and physique; they are adept at recognizing one another. A distinction should be made between people who are homosexual by convention, as in ancient Greece, and those of the modern world whose homosexuality is involuntary. Male inverts make good husbands. Above all, however, the narrative keeps coming back to the figure of the homosexual man who is attracted only to heterosexual men and can therefore never find a partner who is able or willing to return his love. Charlus is the embodiment of this conundrum.

As Andre Gide noticed, the major problem with Proust's representations of homosexuality is that he used his own most abiding and precious memories of love to flesh out the novel's picture of heterosexual relations and was inadvertently left, in the case of homosexuality, with predominantly negative themes and events. This is where the Recherche may be said to reveal the gaping flaw in its construction. It is a flaw imposed on the artist by tbe homophobia of his times. By the time Proust was aware of the consequences of his initial decision to heterosexualize his narrator, it was too late to adjust the disproportionately negative view the book conveys of its homosexual characters and the relationships they form.

In order to restore one's complete respect for the book, it may be useful both to approach Proust du cote de chez ROLAND BARTHES, and to look out for signs of the ironic distance between Proust and his self-portrait, Marcel. Barthes makes some particularly revealing comments on the scene in La Prisonniere when Albertine accidentally lets slip the first half of an obscene expression. She covers her mouth, as if to cram the obscenity back into the silence of her body, but she cannot hope to hide her always very expressive blushes or to censor the eloquence of her sudden speechlessness. Marcel, her lover and captor and - inasmuch as he keeps confiding in us his doubts about her fidelity and virtue - her betrayer, is at first puzzled by her half-utterance; and when she refuses to complete her sentence, he mentally tries out several possible endings, none of them making sense. When he finally understands what she said, he deduces from it proof that she is lesbian (X, 185-188).

Roland Barthes comments that Marcel is horrified, "for it is the dreaded ghetto of female homosexuality, of crude cruising, which is suddenly revealed thereby: a whole scene through the keyhole of language." One has to assume that Barthes is taking a characteristically ironic step beyond the common view of A la recherche as a roman a clef. If there is a key to this novel, we are invited not to turn it, but to remove it and peek through the hole. This phrase, "the keyhole of language" (le trou de serrure du langage), is what impresses one as going straight to the heart of Proust's method. Of course, Barthes is preparing the ground for a conventional post-structuralist reading of the book as an unstable text open to an infinity of subjective readings, based on a free discourse between writer and reader. His point about the "keyhole of language" has a general application, in so far as when we read fiction and "see images" of fictional characters, we are not looking through the author's eyes or the narrator's eyes at an existing and complete reality; we are not holding up a mirror to an already detailed scene, nor are we looking into a mirror held by author or narrator. What flashes and fragments we "see," or imagine we see, we see through and in the medium of the language in which they are presented to us. This may be mildly interesting as a general proposition; but, applied to Proust, it has more particular and literal reference to narrative technique and our readings of it.

To understand and enjoy the Recherche, one must have an ear for gossip - not merely in order to follow up the real-life equivalencies of Proust's characters and events - that is, not to treat the book as autobiography and biography, a grand Soap Opera based on a true story. The book is that, to be sure; and, as such, it is actually an act of gossip. (It is clear from Proust's letters that he held a gossip's view of the upper reaches of French society. Samuel Beckett called the Proust of the letters a "garrulous old dowager.") But that may be its least compelling aspect. More interesting are the technical aspects of the matter, the way the book is narrated: For it is here that Proust really innovates as a gay writer.

The usual narrative mode in Proust involves the relaying - with rhetorical flourishes and personal opinions of varying relevance - of information gained either by hearsay and eavesdropping, or by the visual observation of a partially obstructed scene (between figures across the distances of a drawing room; through peepholes; between the curtain and the window frame; and so on). Most of Marcel's information comes to him incomplete. His inferences and inventions fill the gaps, in the best tradition of gossip. Marcel is an obsessive detective of secrets, a follower of the minutest clues. (In a sense, since he learns everything piecemeal, all the information he absorbs functions as a clue to the final picture.) He is most consistently involved in the great Gay Soap Opera quandary of wondering Is-he-or-isn't-he and Is-she-or-isn't-she That is to say, which of the other characters are homosexual? Although he wishes to be known as a heterosexual, innocent of such affairs, Marcel claims to know all the little secret signs that mean "perversion." He finds visible, physical signs of homosexuality, generally based around the loins. One thinks, in particular, of the muscular wave that ripples over Legrandin's hips outside Combray church, a "wholly carnal fluency" that draws Marcel's attention to "the possibility of a Legrandin altogether different to the one whom we knew" (I, 169). And we must not forget the "almost symbolical behind" of Charlus.

Tones of speech, also, lead Marcel into sexual conjecture. On the very day when he first finds out about Charlus, he hears behind him the voice of Vaugoubert and decides at once, "He is a Charlus." Indeed, he already has the confidence to speak of his own "trained ear" in this connection (VII, 89). There seem to be other points at which his ear responds in this way, not to voice alone, but to language. Could this be why he consistently misunderstands the gay lift-boy in the hotel at Balbec (IV, 137- 138); or why he says Jupien uses "the most ingenious turns of speech" (V, 18)? There can be no doubt as to why, during the War, Saint-Loup learns the slang of as many servicemen as possible, regardless of nationality and rank (XII, 122).

There are two types of clue in operation throughout the book: those to which Marcel responds (or fails to respond) when analyzing other characters and those that he leaves as clues for us readers, rather than state the facts outright. One of his stated reasons for merely hinting at character in this way is that "the truth has no need to be uttered to be made apparent, and that one may perhaps gather it with more certainty, without waiting for words, from a thousand outward signs, even from certain invisible phenomena, analogous in the sphere of human character to what in nature are atmospheric changes" (V, 82).

So, as we have seen, Marcel can draw profound deductions from a movement in a man's hips. And we are expected to read such clues as he does, unprompted, when, for instance, one man greets another "with a smile which it was hard to intercept, harder still to interpret" (XI, 344) or when Saint-Loup darts at a waiter a glance that "in its limpid penetration seemed to indicate a kind of curiosity and investigation entirely different" from that of an "ordinary" diner (XI, 360). In such cases, Marcel simultaneously infers and implies a sexual situation, without any certainty whatsoever, in his mind or in ours.

Marcel's hints to the reader often take shape as unspecific promises, accompanied by an "as we shall see," that sometimes, perhaps deliberately, gets lost in his other plans and never comes to pass. We are promised certain "quarrels" between Charlus and "people wholly unlike Mme. de Villeparisis" (V, 369-370); a vision of "Highnesses and Majesties" not of the Blood Royal but "of another sort altogether," again in connection with Charlus (VI, 162) proof that homosexuality is curable (VII, 35); Charlus "doing things which would have stupefied the members of his family and his friends" (X, 13) and appeasing "his vicious cravings" (X, 49); and troubles brewing for the Saint-Loup marriage, not in a social but "in another connection" (XI, 350). Even if such promises do come to fruition (as some of them do), given the book's length, the reader has often forgotten the promise by the time it is fulfilled. Perhaps its original suggestiveness is sufficient on its own; no further evidence is required. Whether or not the book dutifully delivers, the reader's suspicious imagination will already have done the trick.

The whole book is packed with errors of conjecture, particularly in the matters of sexual status and event. Consider a few examples, all with reference to Charlus. The Marquis de Saint-Loup, himself bisexual, keeps referring to Charlus, his uncle, as a great womanizer, a petticoat-chaser (V, 228; VII, 127, 135); and so, on one occasion, does Swann (VII, 150). Part of Charlus's reputation for evil is based on a general public confusion, whereby he is associated with another Charlus who was arrested in a disreputable house (VIII, 68). Charlus himself fondly imagines that only a handful of close intimates is aware he is homosexual, whereas, in fact, this is very widely known (VIII, 259). In Sodome et Gomorrhe, there is a running joke at Charlus's expense, whereby, whenever anyone says, in a perfectly innocent context, that he is "one of them" or "one of us," Charlus immediately bristles with defensive indignation, under the mistaken impression that it is his sexuality that is being referred to (VIII, 120, 159, 263). In the same volume, Charlus wrongly imagines that Cottard is making eyes at him (VIII, 90). Finally, Marcel tells us that Charlus's whole lifestyle is in error since the Baron confuses his "mania" (his homosexuality) with sentimental friendship (X, 1). The issue seems much more complicated than Marcel realizes, and this may well be a mistake on his part rather than the Baron's. If so, the logical outcome would be that Marcel has consistently misjudged Charlus throughout the book in his efforts to portray him as a personification of vice.

In any case, the important thing about the book's great network of mistakes is that conjecture - which leads as often into error as to truth, and does so purely by chance - is shown to be, in its way, far more creatively functional than the self-consciously "scientific" or "objective" approaches Marcel often dutifully adopts in deference to the twentieth century. In speaking of the "creative" aspect of gossip, one should not include the kind to be found in the Divina Commedia, a dead gossip about dead people, which DANTE presents as a fait accompli, a last judgment against which there can be no arguing. In Proust - and this is where the whole technique takes its place among the preoccupations of MODERNISM - the process of weaving a character out of more or less unrelated fragments of suggestion and suspicion evolves in front of our eyes, as the fortuitous result of opinion and luck, resulting in a literature of subjectivity and contingency.

No characters ever achieve that monolithic certainty of definition that any self-respecting omniscient narrator could have granted them. Take the relatively solid heterosexuality of Swann. Although it remains the dominant impression, it is not the whole story. One of the most consistently homoerotic set pieces in the whole novel is narrated (by Marcel) from Swann's point of view. This is when he enters the Sainte-Euverte household and, heading upstairs with leisurely reluctance, appraises the lavish and ornamental display of servants on the staircase. There are "enormous footmen" with "greyhound profiles" drowsing on benches; a statuesque, "strapping great lad in livery," who seems useless, "purely decorative," with hair like that of a Greek statue painted by Mantegna; colossal men whose "decorative presence and marmorean immobility" suggest to Swann that this should be named the "Staircase of the Giants"; and a young footman who resembles an "angel or sentinel" by the bisexual Cellini. Finally, he recovers "his sense of the general ugliness of the human male" when this spectacle of monumental attendants gives way to that of his fellow guests (II, 147-151). Swann's dreams, too, are revealing. In one, a young man weeps to be losing him as he departs on a train (II, 189) and in another, he has to console another tearful youth, who turns out to be himself (II, 223-225). Swann tells Marcel that the friendships of Charlus are "purely platonic" (VII, 150); but, some time after Swann's death, while discussing with Brichot whether or not Swann was homosexual, Charlus says, "I don't deny that long ago in our schooldays, once by accident" - at which point, discretion interrupts, and Charlus merely reveals that Swann had "a peach-like complexion" as a boy, "as beautiful as Cupid himself" (X, 126). That is all. What remains is a cluster of suggestions, as substantial as rumor, that Marcel is always glad to repeat but often reluctant to substantiate.

Even Marcel's "scientific" pronouncements, far from being objective and detached, actually tend to be opinionated and explicitly reactionary. For instance, the dull and ignorant lecture he gives on homosexuality at the start of Sodome et Gomorrhe was evidently designed as Proust's gay-conservative reply to Andre Gide's much more radical (and more convincingly scientific) book Corydon, which had been published in the previous year (1920). Marcel's warning "against the lamentable error of proposing ... to create a Sodomist movement and to rebuild Sodom" presupposes a Sodom modeled on the aristocratic Faubourg Saint-Germain (VII, 45). The whole passage really only makes sense if we read it as being historically and personally specific to Marcel in his time. In this case, it throws some very useful light on Marcel's own closeted yearning for teenage boys.

Although he is forever trying to provide one, Marcel seems temperamentally unsuited to giving a complete overview of the people and events he describes. It seems quite wrong, therefore, to speak of this as a "panoramic" novel. On the contrary, it is a narrowly specific peephole novel (or, as Barthes might put it, a keyhole novel), whose narrator is a spy. Marcel's habit of looking-through becomes a narrative mannerism. Observations made from his windows in the hotel at Balbec or in the Hotel de Guermantes may seem natural enough, and unforced. But when, as the psychological climax to Le Temps Retrouve, he peeks through a hole in a brothel door to watch Charlus being whipped by a male whore, Marcel's powerful imagination provides us with a wealth of details he could only have seen if the peephole had been moveable and equipped with a zoom lens. For once, his account is impossibly complete (XII, 155-156). Throughout the book, amorous and sexual processes (such as flirtation and cruising) are associated with espionage. The cruising eyes of Charlus are occasionally "shot through by a look of intense activity such as the sight of a person whom they do not know excites only in men to whom ... it suggests thoughts that would not occur to anyone else - madmen, for instance, or spies" (IV, 69). When Marcel sees Saint-Loup leaving Jupien's brothel in a suspiciously quick and covert manner, he asks himself, "Was this hotel being used as a meeting-place of spies? " (XII, 150) The idea is mistaken but not inappropriate. As Roland Barthes says, the novel is "a tremendous intrigue, a farce network" in which all characters (particularly, of course, Marcel himself) are informants, stool pigeons, definitively indiscreet.

What this does to our position as readers, in our "discoursing with the text," is the novel's real tour de force since we are involved in the intrigue as its principal beneficiaries. We are the point to which all the gossip flows, and it is our presence that attracts it. However, we do not get away with this lightly: We press our eye to the keyhole and see a keyhole-shaped reflection of our own eye staring back - assuming we are healthily self-conscious. The point is that, in order to appreciate the full quality and resonance of Marcel's gossip, we ourselves have to become fully involved as gossips in the process of drawing conclusions from his clues. We are ourselves implicated in the intrigue.

Proust's trick of turning all of his readers into inveterate gossips is closely linked to one of his main themes, of the relation between aesthetic creativity and homosexual intercourse. One of the book's longest running jokes persistently nudges the arts into a realm suggestive of sexual irregularity. The liaison between Charlus and the violinist Morel gives rise to a barely straight-faced equation of music and sodomy. "I should like to listen to a little music this evening," says Charlus when he first picks Morel up; "I pay five hundred francs for the evening" (VIII, 11). Later, when Charlus and Morel play together for the Verdurins and their guests, Marcel comments that the Baron's keyboard style has its "equivalent" in his "nervous defects," by which is meant his homosexuality (VIII, 137). When Mme. Verdurin puts the two lovers in communicating bedrooms, she cannot resist this innuendo: "If you want to have a little music, don't worry about us, the walls are as thick as a fortress" (VIII, 261). (See, also, X, 15.) At times the equation broadens to include artistic activities in general. Something of the kind seems to occur when a woman says she loves "artistic" men because "there is no one like them for understanding women" (I, 104). The whole issue of Bergotte's apparent "vices" is concerned with "a literary solution" to the moral problems raised by "really vicious lives."

By obsessing us with the Is-he-isn't-he? question, in the end, Marcel forces us to ask it of him. (The usual line on this matter of their sexualities has been that Proust was homosexual, his narrator heterosexual; but one is not obliged to follow it.) We may feel the need to ask such questions as the following. Why does Marcel find Albertine most sexy when she is sleeping? Why does he keep accusing her of being a lesbian? Why does he become the most accomplished homosexual spotter in the book? Why does he keep spying on the flirtations of homosexual men? Why, in his only general pronouncement on the appearance of the male body, when he says it is "marred as though by an iron clamp left sticking in a statue that has been taken down from its niche" (IX, 98), why is he so clearly thinking of men as being in a perpetual state of erection? Finally, and perhaps most revealingly, why does he have no name? (Calling him Marcel, after the author, is a mere convenience.)

Marcel is certainly not beyond reacting positively to male beauty. He shows us a young servant with "a bold manner and a charming face" (V, 271); a pageboy "as beautiful as Endymion, with incredibly perfect features" (VII, 268) and a "handsome angel" of a butcher, up to his elbows in gore (IX, 180). Young men on the beach at Balbec are "demigods" (III, 366), while the Comte d'Argencourt and the Duc de Chatellerault - both tall, blond, young, and homosexual - look "like a condensation of the light of the spring evening" in which they appear (V, 289). The two sons of Mme. de Surgis, to whom Charlus will later take a fancy, are described by Marcel as possessing "great and dissimilar beauty," inherited from their mother (VII, 119). Marcel, rather lamely, excuses this tendency to admire good-looking boys and men as "the mania which leads people who are innocent of inversion to speak of masculine beauty" (VIII, 283).

Furthermore, there are equivocal moments in all of Marcel's infatuations with beautiful women. There is the occasion, for instance, when he dreams of Gilberte as a treacherous young man (III, 289-290). He sees something of Mme. Swann "in the masculine gender and the calling of a bathing superintendent" at Balbec (III, 369) and, conversely, he sees in a portrait of the same woman, at first, "a somewhat boyish girl," then "an effeminate youth, vicious and pensive" (IV, 206). Saint-Loup reminds him of his beloved Mme. de Guermantes (V, 101). And the relationship with Albertine fails (if it tries) to resist the intrusion of the author's autobiography: Whatever one's theoretical principles, it is as difficult to separate Albertine from Alfred Agostinelli as Marcel from Proust.

Certain nonexplicit remarks seem comprehensible to Proust, rather than to the Marcel who makes them, unless the latter has the former's inside knowledge of a relatively hidden homosexual culture. One should include among these a description of Legrandin as "a Saint Sebastian of snobbery" (I, 175); and of the Emperor William II as a green carnation (VI, 298). It may be that, as Andre Maurois once said, Marcel's love for Albertine is "nothing but a morbid curiosity." He loves her in order to get close enough to observe her, to find out about her; and he does so in order to spy on himself. He is testing his own heterosexual resolve.

Furthermore, it is hard not to conclude that he is testing it in a manner that prejudges the issue. The imprisoned Albertine (the prisonniere Marcel hides in his most private sanctum in order to contemplate her dormancy at his leisure) calls to mind the metaphor with which that era made a kind of sense of the homosexual male: the female soul imprisoned in a male physique. The monstrous act of appropriation whereby he incorporates her into his own domain - ostensibly an expression of desire - seems more clearly a sign of Marcel's homosexuality: he steals and keeps her precisely because he does not desire her. (Whether or not he knows this is another matter.) As soon as we have established the Is-he-isn't-he? doubt about Marcel - with whom, remember, we are in conspiracy to inform/misinform ourselves about the other characters - we have to understand that exactly the same doubt arises about us, and directly affects our competence to participate in the text. It appears that Proust is consistently aware of, and plays with, the fact that the book is openly, ostensibly chattering with heterosexuals from a heterosexual (Marcel's) point of view, but that it has a closeted homosexual subtext of exchanges between a sexually equivocal Marcel and his homosexual readers. This gives A la recherche du temps perdu a preeminent position in the as-yet-unwritten history of literary Camp and in the history of homosexual culture. Its place in straight male Modernism may be a red herring.


Barthes, Roland. A Lover's Discourse. London: Cape, 1979. • Bersani, Leo. Marcel Proust: The Fictions of Life and Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. • Hayman, Ronald. Proust: A Biography. London: Heinemann, 1990. • Meyers, Jeffrey. Homosexuality and Literature 1890-1930. London: Athlone Press, 1977. • Painter, George D. Marcel Proust: A Biography. Volume One, London: Chatto & Windus, 1959; Volume Two, London: Chatto & Windus, 1965. • Rivers, J. E. Proust and the Art of Love: The Aesthetics of Sexuality in the Life, Times, and Art of Marcel Proust. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. • Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistomology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Copyright © 1995 New England Publishing Associates, Inc. NOTE: This article is for your personal use; please do not distribute it. Thank you!