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Mirages and Mad BeliefsProust the Skeptic$
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Christopher Prendergast

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691155203

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691155203.001.0001

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What’s in a Comma?

What’s in a Comma?

(p.104) Chapter Five What’s in a Comma?
Mirages and Mad Beliefs

Christopher Prendergast

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines a question, the most important of the skeptic's questions, not only in but for Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu: is poetic seeing also true seeing, and how can it be if poetic seeing is the seeing of a mirage? It analyzes Proust's use of comma in the sentence “those infrequent moments when we perceive nature as it is, poetically, were what Elstir's work was made of.” It also considers Proust's identification of Elstir's way of seeing as based on an “optical illusion” or a “mirage” and looks at signs of a mercurial and probing intelligence that are to be found almost everywhere at work in the Recherche. Finally, the chapter describes the sparring contest of intellect and impression that it argues runs deeper into a question of “truth.”

Keywords:   truth, Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, poetic seeing, true seeing, mirage, comma, optical illusion, intelligence, impression

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