Prelude Theory II

Annotation of Theories II: The Proustian Demonstration

The entirety of MHT explores theories relating to the Proustian Demonstration, though the final third of the essay seems to be expressly devoted to this discussion. In addition, this final part of the essay illustrates how Beckett’s affinities and aversions in theory, philosophy, aesthetics, and writing influenced both his reading of Proust, his examination of the Proustian Demonstration, and his own later work. The main elements of the Proustian Demonstration include the mutual inclusivity of form and content and the expression of actual Idea versus its Representation. Included here are the first observations from my early readings of the essay which lead me to (or descended into) the following subsection, “An Annotation of Space: A Voluntary Memory.”

This annotation is organized similarly to the previous section in the following format:


“Quote(s) from Beckett Essay, if necessary, to further clarify the meaning or contextualize my annotation of the Proustian Demonstration.”

My (often translative) notes and comments on the theories in the essay.


Beckett says that in order to examine the Proustian equation you must also examine the Proustian Demonstration, which is presented both in the final narrative content of ISOLT as well as in the formal structure of the overall novels themselves (which provides the reader with an experience similar to that of Proust’s narrator through the duration of thousands of pages in the six volumes). Beckett delineates between structures and materials, i.e. form and content, and asserts

that the use of proven literary form often fails content, or, forces failed representation of a phenomenological experience. The Narrator, Proust, and Beckett all struggle with “sacred

literary geometries” (i.e. proven and acceptable forms, which disallow the detachment of effect from cause (or perhaps affect from cause or affect as content derived from form).

I take issue with the use of the novel, i.e. written word only as having holistically mutually inclusive form and content.  However, through the medium of the novel you do have the ability to move back and forth through time and physically connect two moments together, effecting Revelation – however, this is an intellectual act and not phenomenological one, therefore not fully presentative of Revelation. The novel is almost entirely lacking sensory experience other than that of duration, though the audience is implicated in the demonstration of the content as they experience the time and memories of the Narrator.


“’[…] occupying in Time a much greater place than that so sparingly conceded to them in space, a place indeed extended beyond measure’” (Proust in Beckett).

Form should be presentative, if at least representative, of the content – in doing so, the subject achieves much more purity, even if pure presentation of Revelation, or of any successive deformed subject, is impossible. 


“Voluntary memory (Proust repeats it ad nauseam) is of no value as an instrument of evocation, and provides an image as far removed from the real as the myth of our imagination or the caricature furnished by direct perception.”

I could argue, then, that non-phenomenological expressions may also have no value as an instrument of evocation, of true extratemporal sensory evocation. I think, perhaps, this is not true – that the novel as a medium can be evocative or at least trigger involuntary memory via association – but the form itself is not sensuously evocative (except for in duration, and, if read aloud, in the production and reception of speech).


“At the best, all that is realized in Time (all Time produces), whether in Art or Life, can only be possessed successively, by a series of partial annexations – and never integrally and all at once.”

One implication here is that durational art forms allow for more accurate demonstrations of, or perhaps just representations of, Life.


Here I apply Beckett’s discussion of insatiable desire for attainment between two mobile subjects to the relationship between form and content: “Moreover, when it is a case of [form and content], we are faced by the problem of [a form] whose mobility is not merely a function of the [content], but independent and personal: two separate and immanent dynamisms related by no system of synchronization.” It could also be read: “the problem of [content] whose mobility is not merely a function of the [form].” One cannot be subservient to the other, they must feed into each other; they more synchronized they are, the more they demonstrate and support one another, the stronger the overall experience of each as individual elements. However, in order to see attain synchronization, you must examine and know both form and content separately as independent aspects of a work of art. This becomes important in 34.2: “Indeed he makes no effort to dissociate form from content. The one is a concretion of the other, the revelation of a world.”


“Normally we are in the position of the tourist (the traditional specification would constitute a pleonasm), whose aesthetic experience consists in a series of identifications and for whom Baedeker is the end rather than the means.”

I feel as if my annotation is the aforementioned Baedeker – an experience of the guide, not an experience of the thing itself.


“His gaze is no longer the necromancy that sees in each precious object a mirror of the past. The notion of what he should see has not had time to interfere its prism between the eye and its object.  His eye functions with the cruel precision of a camera; it photographs the reality […].”

Ideas of re-presentation, the Suffering of Being as pure presentation / phenomenological experience. Complex implications regarding symbolism, auto-symbolism (the object articulates and means nothing but itself), and realism.


“The pendulum oscillates between these two terms: Suffering – that opens a window on the real and is the main condition of the artistic experience […] .”

Involuntary phenomenological extratemporal sensory experiences (of the self, of memory, of time and space) are at the core of artistic endeavors.


“The implications of that experience

[in ISOLT in which the Narrator has a

[are] applied to the work of art that takes shape in his mind in the course of the reception itself.”

In moments of Revelation come the purist conceptions of art – the “structure of [its] scaffolding” and the “nature of its materials.” Art is born from the phenomenological and exists in the phenomenological – in any other modality it is translated through a medium, as Beckett asserts that writers are not artists but translators (32.2), and thus subject to interpretation. Proust’s Book, the Narrator’s Book, “takes form in his mind” – once it leaves it becomes refracted and impure – unless the form in which it manifests can illicit in the audience the same kind of Suffering in which the Art was conceived.


“Even the most successful evocative experiment can only project the echo of a past sensation, because, being an act of intellection, it is conditioned by the prejudices of the intelligence which abstracts from any given sensation, as being illogical and insignificant, a discordant and frivolous intruder, whatever word or gesture, sound or perfume, cannot be fitted into the puzzle of a concept.”

An intellectual reflection on myself without involuntary extratemporal phenomenological experience is false.


“Allusion has been made to his contempt for the literature that “describes,” for the realists and naturalists worshipping the offal of experience, prostrate before the epidermis and the swift epilepsy, and content to transcribe the surface, the façade, behind which the Idea is prisoner.”

This superficial description is what I have done, what I am about to do. I cannot without superficiality, access or reproduce the pure phenomenological experience of the spaces and times of my life here.


“Impressionists state what they see and not what they know they ought to see. […]. And we are reminded of Schopenhauer’s definition of the artistic procedure as ‘the contemplation of the world independently of the principle of reason.” This is how I am going to do it.