‘A fragment of time in its pure state’: the Dialectical Image in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.
In Time Regained, the final volume of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, the narrator trips over a paving stone which prompts a bodily memory of his having done the same thing many years previously in Venice. The sensation which follows brings with it an intrusion of the past, a physical convergence of temporalities that alters the appearance of the material world. This essay reads the narrator’s experience through Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image, in which two opposing phenomena (illustrated by Benjamin in terms of ‘Time’) collide and crystallise, forming a constellation of temporalities. It will thereby explore the possibility of the material manifestation of multiple times at once and consider how this understanding of time contributes to, and is displayed in, the temporal and narrative structure of Proust’s novel.
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