Lecture: Proust, the Writer: Mastering a Craft and Breaking a Taboo


Location: O'Shaughnessy Hall, Room 119

William C. Carter, distinguished professor of French and specialist in Proust studies and nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature

Much has been written about the genesis of Proust’s great novel, In Search of Lost Time, his difficulty in finding a publisher, and the history of the novel’s editing and publication. Indeed, the debate continues today about whether this novel can be considered finished, and, if so, which version of The Fugitive should be considered the definitive one. Yet no one has collected and examined the evolution of Proust’s ideas about the craft of writing about what constitutes literature—nor has anyone examined his decision to become the first author to break a taboo and depict the continuum of human sexuality by creating characters who are exclusive in their sexual orientation, those who are bisexual, and those who evolve during their lives from heterosexual to homosexual or vice versa.

In his lecture, William Carter will make a strong case for Proust as the founder of gay and lesbian studies and as one of the earliest proponents of gay marriage. The texts that he will draw upon come not only from Proust’s writings but from his letters, which span his lifetime, many constituting a journal of his apprenticeship as a novelist. William Carter’s work in this regard will be the basis for a new book whose working title is “Proust on the Craft of Writing.”

Carter is author of three critically acclaimed books as well as numerous articles: The Proustian Quest, Marcel Proust, a Life, and Proust in Love. He was also project director and co-producer of the documentary film Marcel Proust: A Writer’s Life, which aired nationally on PBS in 1993 and has won numerous awards. Carter is the creator of a new website on Proust that is “devoted to studying and celebrating the life and works of Marcel Proust while enjoying what he calls ‘the revealing smile of art.’” Recently retired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Carter, an internationally recognized Proust scholar, is still actively pursuing his research and participating in conferences abroad as well as in the United States.

This event is co-Sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Henkels Interdisciplinary Lecturers Fund, the Gender Studies Program, the Arts and Letters Learning Beyond the Classroom Initiative, and the Ph.D. in Literature Program.

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