With his seminal novel, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust created modern literature’s most famous and poignant symbol of remembrance: the madeleine, a cookie whose taste and texture suddenly unlocked long-forgotten memories of his childhood and granted him the inspiration to write his epic coming of age story in turn-of-the-century France. The Weather in Proust (Duke University Press) is the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s madeleine—a remembrance of queer theories past. The deeper I delved into the book, the more I became reacquainted with Sedgwick’s indispensable contributions to queer studies and was reminded of what a loss the discipline had suffered with her passing in 2009.
The Weather in Proust is a collection of nine essays, five of which were intended to become part of a book on Proust and an additional four that encompass Sedgwick’s three decades of queer scholarship. The book is a meeting of the old and the new, both a retrospective on this founding mother of queer theory and a glimpse into what occupied her mind in the final years of her life. In Proust, Sedgwick finds a kindred spirit. Both writers are notorious for their excruciatingly detailed and nuanced literary dissections of the hidden crevasses of human desire and esoteric references to spirituality, philosophy, and classics. Yet, for those who may be turned off by the prospect of daunting literary analysis, only the first chapter of the book is dedicated to closely reading Proust. Instead of deconstructing Proust, Sedgwick calls upon his queer-inflected vision of mysticism and sensuality as a muse to guide her through her own meditations on subjects ranging from Buddhism, to Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic theories on affect, to textile weaving.
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