Marcel Proust in Context front bookcover.

The life and work of Marcel Proust in one definitive volume

Associate Professor Adam Watt of the Modern Languages Department has released a new book, Marcel Proust in Context. Contributions from world-leading scholars in the field make it the most up-to-date and wide-reaching volume available on the life and work of the French novelist. The publication of the book coincides with an international Proust conference hosted by Professor Watt at the University of Exeter in mid-December.

As part of the Cambridge University Press’ ‘Literature in Context’ series, the book situates Marcel Proust’s work in its own cultural and historical context. Living at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Proust lived during a period of immense socio-cultural change.

Marcel Proust in Context covers Proust’s biography and correspondence as well as the gradual production and evolution of his seven volume masterwork, À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), long considered a landmark of European literary modernity.

The book explores Proust’s reading; his attitudes towards contemporary social and political issues including the First World War; and his relation to journalism; religion; sexuality; science and travel. The volume also casts light on Proust’s relation to thinkers and artists of his time, and to those of the great French and European traditions of which he is now so centrally a part. Reviews from his own lifetime to the present day are included as well as assessments of Proust in translation and the broader assimilation of his work into twentieth and twenty first century culture. The volume finishes with a comprehensive survey of Proust’s critical reception.

Professor Adam Watt comments, “The book is a major contribution to the field, bringing together thirty chapters by world-leading scholars. Distinguished contributors include William C. Carter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama, described by American literary critic Harold Bloom as ‘Proust’s definitive biographer’; Nathalie Mauriac Dyer, Director of the publication of Proust’s Cahiers 1 à 75 de la Bibliothèque nationale de France; Julian Johnson, Regius Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Michael Wood, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton.”

The book has been released at an important moment for Proust scholarship. This year marks the centenary of the publication of Swann’s Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. In line with this milestone, Professor Watt will host an international conference entitled ‘Swann at 100’ at the University of Exeter between 16 and 18 December. Supported by the College of Humanities, the Centre for Translating Cultures, the Society for French Studies and the Modern Humanities Research Association, the conference seeks to explore the impact and legacy of Proust’s novel one hundred years on. The speakers are leading scholars in the field of Proust and many have also contributed towards Professor Watt’s new book.

Professor Watt adds, “There have been Proust-related events all over the world this year, commemorating the centenary of Swann’s Way. This is the last major event of the year and brings together an exciting, truly international field of scholars in Exeter.”

The book and conference are part of Professor Watt’s wider research into the life and work of Marcel Proust. He has published four further books on the topic including an illustrated critical biography, Marcel Proust, in May of this year. A review of this book was recently published in The Times Literary Supplement. The papers from the conference will be edited by Professor Watt and published as a special edition of the bilingual journal Marcel Proust Aujourd’hui in 2015.

Date: 11 December 2013

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