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The Proustian Harem

Topping, Margaret Eileen 2002. The Proustian Harem. The Modern Language Review 97 (2) , pp. 300-311. 10.2307/3736861

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In the Western imagination, the harem is a locus of physical and mental enclosure, voyeurism, and proscribed eroticism. However, in Proust's "A la Recherche du temps perdu," these stereotypical associations undergo characteristically Proustian subversions. In a vision mediated by the nineteenth-century Orientalist painting of Ingres (L'Odalisque à l'esclave; Le Bain turc) and Delacroix (La Mort de Sardanapale), and by Montesquieu's "Lettres Persanes," Proust's evocation of the harem, at times, collapses the Self-Other opposition that has dominated discourses on the West's construction of the East and, at times, as with Charlus and Albertine, expresses an irresolvable alterity. Moreover, the voyeurism that underlies representations of the harem is itself a metaphor for the processes of artistic creation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Additional Information: Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 19/02/2014).
Publisher: Modern Humanities Research Association
ISSN: 00267937
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 22:07

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