Coyle, John Gerard
Proust and Ruskin: a study in influence.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The following thesis is a comparative study of Ruskin and Proust. The six years which Proust spent studying the Englishman's works have prompted several full-length studies and many articles devoted to tracing the nature and extent of Ruskin's influence on the creation of A la recherche du temps perdu. In the first three chapters I suggest that the very proliferation of such studies indicates that a different emphasis is required; one which pays full attention to Ruskin's qualities as a writer and is even prepared to consider the paradox of Proust's influence on Ruskin. Where previous scholars in this field have over-emphasised the dubious notion of influence, unquestioningly adopting Proust's version of an idealist aesthetic and presenting it as a nimble adaptation of Ruskin's clumsy prototype, my study defers questions of influence and affinity and contrasts the two writers under the terms of écrivain and écrivant (chapters 2 and 3). In noting the extent to which the self-regulating theory embedded in Proust's novel has informed, and indeed controlled subsequent critical debate, I indicate how the true nature and import of Ruskin's work has been obscured, and examine incorporations of the 'marginal' discourses of art criticism and autobiography into the mainstream genre of the novel.
A chapter on the evaluative connotations of 'influence' is followed by an extended comparison of Praeterita and Fors Clavigera with A la recherche au temps perdu as examples of the creation and re-creation of the self through the act of writing (chapters 5 and 6). The question of sources is only tangentially addressed, my main aim being to allow two radically different yet representative writers to confront each other, rather than to consolidate any questionable theory of succession.
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