To Behold To Become

There is a fine book by Elizabeth Ladenson called Proust's Lesbianism which is of course about the depiction and positioning of lesbianism in La Recherche but it is also subtly an argument about a devenir lesbien. In short, the protagonist-narrator requires a "departure from a phallic economy" in order to launch his own development. Here is Ladenson's argument neatly summarized towards the end of the book. It is very elegant and thought provoking.

The narrator's subsequent quest to penetrate the mystery of erotic relations between women has its origin in this familial triangle involving the mother, the grandmother, and the son who would be a daughter. One of the most salient characteristics of Gomorrah is the evident narcissism of relations between women: each desires her like, and they all resemble one another. When he first encounters the "petite bande" of "jeunes filles en fleurs," the narrator cannot settle on a single object of desire because they are indistinguishable to him. What he really desires is their interdependence on one another, as well as their independence from him: like the mother and grandmother, they form a seamless whole. Thus Proust's narrator desires women who desire other women not despite the fact but precisely because they evidently do not need him. It is in imitation of this resemblance between subject and object that the project of recherche finally comes to fruition: turning away from the doomed attempt to insert himself between women, the narrator decides to reproduce himself.
Ladenson's reading is well supported by the textual evidence and offers a smart and smooth riposte to a quagmire of interpretations that would transpose willy nilly the genders of characters (in a bid to read the novel as autobiographical). Her insistence that Gomorrah not be read as a mirror image of Sodom rewards: it brings to light more of the architectonics. Reading Landenson is like being guided through a complex musical score; the experience lingers delightfully in memory — ever to be savoured anew.

And so for day 1119