Lecture by Proustian scholar William C. Carter


Location: 119 O'Shaughnessy Hall

William C. Carter

“Proust, the Writer: Mastering a Craft and Breaking a Taboo”

Much has been written about the genesis of Proust’s great novel, In Search of Lost Time, and about his difficulty in finding a publisher, and the history of the novel’s editing and publication. Indeed, the debate continues today about whether this novel can be considered finished, and, if so, which version of The Fugitive (Albertine disparue) should be considered the definitive one. Yet there remains much to be examined on the evolution of Proust’s ideas about the craft of writing, about what constitutes literature. His decision to become the first author to break a taboo and depict the continuum of human sexuality by creating characters who are exclusive in their sexual orientation, those who are bisexual, and those who evolve during their lives from heterosexual to homosexual or vice versa also calls for further scrutiny. In his lecture, William Carter will discuss these points and will make a case for Proust as the founder of Gay and Lesbian Studies, drawing upon texts that come not only from Proust’s writings but from his letters, which span his lifetime, many constituting a journal of his apprenticeship as a novelist. William Carter’s work in this regard will be the basis for a new book whose working title is “Proust on the Craft of Writing.”

William Carter is the author of three critically acclaimed books:
The Proustian Quest. New York University Press, 1992.
Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book of 1993

The Proustian Quest is the first full-length study that explores the influence of social change on Proust’s vision. In Remembrance of Things Past, Proust describes how the machines of transportation and communication transformed fashion, social mores, time-space perception, and the understanding of the laws of nature. Concentrating on the motif of speed, Carter establishes the centrality of the modern world to the novel’s main themes and produces a far-reaching synthesis that demonstrates the work’s profound structural unity.

Marcel Proust, a Life. Yale University Press, 2000.
Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2000 by Choice Magazine
Named a Notable Book for 2000 by the New York Times Book Review
Selected as a “Best Book of 2000” by the Los Angeles Times
Selected as a “Best Biography of 2000” by the Sunday Times of London
Winner of the 2000 Book of the Year Award in the Biography/Memoir category (ForeWord Magazine)

This book is a thorough account of the life and times of Marcel Proust, one of the greatest literary voices of the twentieth century. Based on a host of recently available letters, memoirs, and manuscripts, it sheds new light on Proust’s character, his development as an artist, and his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time (long known in English as Remembrance of Things Past). The biography also sets Proust’s life in the decadent artistic and social context of the French fin de siècle and the years leading up to World War I.

Proust in Love. Yale University Press, 2006.
William C. Carter portrays Proust’s amorous adventures and misadventures from adolescence through his adult years, supplying where appropriate Proust’s own sensitive, intelligent, and often disillusioned observations about love and sexuality. Proust is revealed as a man agonizingly caught between the constant fear of public exposure as a homosexual and the need to find and express love. In telling the story of Proust in love, Carter also shows how the author’s experiences became major themes in his novel In Search of Lost Time.

“William C. Carter is Proust’s definitive biographer. His Proust in Love is a marvelous study of the comic splendor of the great novelist’s vision of human eros and its discontents.”—Harold Bloom

William Carter was also project director and co-producer of the documentary Marcel Proust: A Writer’s Life, which aired nationally on PBS in 1993 and has won numerous awards.
Finally, William Carter is the creator of a new website on Proust, “devoted to studying and celebrating the life and works of Marcel Proust while enjoying what he calls ‘the revealing smile of art.’"

William Carter’s visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Henkels Interdisciplinary Lecturers Fund, the Gender Studies Program, the Arts and Letters Learning Beyond the Classroom Initiative, and the Ph.D. in Literature Program.