Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

Kkkkultur: Kitsch & Camp in a la Recherche Du Temps Perdu (2)

Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

Kkkkultur: Kitsch & Camp in a la Recherche Du Temps Perdu (2)

Article excerpt

Turning the spotlight from the brutal avoidance of reality toward its idealization, although saccharine sentimentality provides a lethal mode of distraction for Mme. Octave, in the end one has to ask what really makes the reader so uneasy with her self-delusions. With a contemporary analogy, Higgins problematizes the matter:

   It may well be that greeting cards often do more to discourage aesthetic
   sensitivity than to encourage it. But aesthetic sensitivity is not
   discontinuous with the kind of sensitivity on which humanity in social
   interaction depends. And if this is an accurate observation, it would seem
   that a rigidly exclusive aesthetic undercuts the kind of sensitivity that
   one would in general expect aesthetic experience to promote. (P. 18)

Higgins's association returns us to the question: Can a phenomenological line between "genuine" and "false" emotions be so easily discerned? Who or what determines if Eulalie's weekly visits do not in fact stimulate "real" sentiments for Mme. Octave, idealized and garbed within a world of make-believe though they may be? If the sugar-coating of melodrama inspires good humor, family solidarity, and compassion, why should it be condemned as aesthetic heresy?

Marcel's observances, shortly following the elated ceremonies recounted above, quickly question their innocent sentimentalism:

   elle ne tirat de l'accumulation de ces jours monotones auxquels elle tenait
   tant, l'attente d'un cataclysme domestique limite a la duree d'un moment
   mais qui la forcerait d'accomplir une firs pour touts un de ces tangents
   dot elle reconnaissait qu'ils lui seraient salutaires et auxquels elle ne
   pouvait d'elle-meme se decider. Elle nous aimait veritablement, elle aurait
   eu plaisir a nous pleurer ... de lui faire savourer dans un long regret
   toute sa tendresse pour nous. (Pp. 114-15)

   she would extract from the accumulation of those monotonous days (on which
   she so much depended) a keen expectation of some domestic cataclysm,
   instantaneous in its happening, but violent enough to compel her to put
   into effect, once for all, one of those changes which she knew would be
   beneficial to her health, but to which she could never make up her mind
   without some such stimulus. She was genuinely fond of us; she would have
   enjoyed the long luxury of weeping for out untimely decease ... letting her
   taste the full savour of her affection for us in long years of mourning.
   (Pp. 88-89.)

The logic of this progression returns to that exemplified by the insatiable compulsion of the modern consumer whose search for evermore "effective," "powerful" novelties. Sentiments become more efficient when they transcend into abstractions; they become solely contingent upon the individual's ability to alter the meaning of objects and events toward self-directed emotional experience. Mme. Octave, in her desire to feel even more potent emotions, expunges the necessity of the presence of her family; the objects of her emotions become peripheral to the experience of some feeling. Kitsch caters to this "thrill" of mourning, an emotion much more intense than mere family bonding. Kitsch allows the pursuit of pleasure in the hypothetical, provided that before any emotion can be savored, its intensity becomes disciplined, adjusted, and alienated from subversion by accidentals. Kitsch provides symbols that either erase or absorb completely (stylize) the object of emotion into a purely significative emotional system that serves as a "trigger," a "quick fix," for sentimental experience at will.

This reliance upon and preference for the power to conjure up emotive stimuli in the absence of any externally generated sensations is more clearly depicted by Francoise's demand for simple and elegant solutions of human conduct. Her inability to experience emotion directly manifests itself in Marcel's following observation: "Je me rendis compte que, en dehors de ceux de sa parente, les humains excitaient d'autant plus sa pitie par leurs malheurs, qu'ils vivaient plus eloignes d'elle. …

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