This chapter examines “Proustian jokes” of the kind that gives pause for thought rather than to inflict a wound. Most of the mad beliefs in À la recherche du temps perdu are droll as well as crazy, and have their place in what is often and rightly said of the novel, that, among so many other things, it is also a great comic novel. The chapter considers examples of Proustian jokes that it suggests also reveal some of the key sources and terms of Marcel Proust's own aesthetic: the idioms of philosophical Idealism, the practice of naming one thing as another, the transposition of one order of sensation to another, and the drama of the unfinished or unfinishable sentence. It argues that the target of self-directed humor in the Recherche is not just an empirical self but the category of Self and the risk-laden practices of self-talk.
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