This book confronts the singularity of the relationship between two exemplary writers of the last century in order to challenge and to reinvigorate our notions of what art and criticism – literary or otherwise – can do. While it takes Roland Barthes’s encounters with Marcel Proust’s monumental masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu as its specific focus, the implications of its argument are far-reaching. Indeed, the book argues that Barthes’s writing on Proust’s work between the early 1950s and 1980 (including a substantial set of unpublished notes for a series of seminars delivered at the University of Rabat in 1969–1970) proposes not only a critical culture of Proust that is productively inconsistent, but also, more generally, a fresh understanding of criticism as a creative activity that embraces insecurity and variation as it refuses to remain fixed upon reassuringly stable themes, meanings and interpretations.
Reviews‘Theoretically shrewd and brilliantly argued, this is the first monograph to offer a complete panorama of Barthes’s sustained engagement with the Proustian oeuvre. Roland Barthes: The Proust Variations will take its place among the best of Proust scholarship, continuing the legacy of the great Malcolm Bowie.'
Marion Schmid, University of Edinburgh