"Each of us is indeed alone:" Vulnerability in In Search of Lost Time

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


In the last volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Time Regained, the narrator remarks: “every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have perceived in himself” (TR, 273; IV 489–90). In this chapter, I suggest that Proust’s optical instrument enables us to discern uncomfortable aspects of vulnerability in close personal relationships. The proposed contribution to the debate around vulnerability is a negative one: I argue that the Search, often praised (or dismissed) as a novel about an (exasperatingly) sensitive young man, is in fact also a painfully evocative study in the indifference to, and detachment from, our “loved-ones.” I focus on the narrator’s relationship to (the memory of) his grandmother to argue that the narrator shields himself from the kind of vulnerability that opens him up to others. In the process, I show that the tension between our readerly experience of these passages and the narrator’s own conclusions in Time Regained are constitutive of the philosophical value of the Search.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Proustian Mind
EditorsAnna Elsner, Thomas Stern
ISBN (Electronic)9780429341472
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • Vulnerability
  • Philosophy & Literature
  • Indifference
  • Moral emotions


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