Proust – The Scientist

Corinna Heiss, U.S.A., ID LLCE2016-363;        Proust was not only a French writer, but to some extent, a neurologist and psychologist. Far ahead of his time, Proust illustrated in his masterpiece In Search Of Lost Time a link between personal memories and sensory stimuli. Without a doubt the most famous scene of In Search Of Lost Time remains the moment when the taste of a French pastry, called “Madeleine,” rekindles the childhood memories of the narrator Marcel in the first volume. Similarly, listening to Vinteuil’s Sonata triggers and maintains Swann’s love for Odette and its expression in the second volume of the masterpiece. This reveals that human senses are not only linked to personal memories, but may also trigger them. Moreover, contemporary studies in the biological field have shown that there is a correlation between stimuli and intangible feelings like love, hatred, and sympathy, primarily located in the amygdala of the human brain. Reading Proust’s masterpiece through the lens of current neurological studies opens an interesting and innovative perspective to the subject and shows that he was not “only” a writer, but also an observational scientist.

Keywords: Proust, neurologist, memories