Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2009

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: French Language and Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Although he was a significant presence in Paris and well-known among European colleagues, the possible role William James played in the gestation of Proust's ground-breaking novel À la recherche du temps perdu has been neglected by scholars on both sides of the Atlantic. This dissertation argues that much of what made Proust's novel so startlingly original stems from psychological and philosophical theory promulgated by William James, much of which was available to Proust in French translation. The potential for historical connection is explored as background to structural elements of James's theory of consciousness - the flights and perchings and fringe of relations of conscious attention - followed by specific comparisons of elements of James's psychological theory that appear similarly in Proust's prose. Aspects of James's philosophical writings are analyzed as they, too, appear to the reader of Proust. Finally, late twentieth-century writings in neurocognitive science confirming a link between William James and Proust are described.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Pascal Ifri

Committee Members

Elayne Dezon-Jones, Pascal Boyer, Stamos Metzidakis, Steven Meyer, Colette Winn


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