What is a Proust Scholar?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A Proust scholar is someone who focuses on studying the 20th century French author Marcel Proust. Proust's most renowned work was a seven-volume novel collectively entitled Á la recherche du temps perdu, which has been translated as both In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past. A Proust scholar typically will focus his or her attention on this work but also will be interested in Proust's life and his other writings.

A Proust scholar may focus on one of Proust's fields of study, including French history.
A Proust scholar may focus on one of Proust's fields of study, including French history.

Proust's Most Famous Work

In Search of Lost Time by itself might be considered fodder for an entire life's worth of study. Written during a span of 13 years, from 1909 until Proust's death from pneumonia in 1922, the novel was published in seven volumes from 1913 to 1927. It offers a look into the social and political changes in France during the latter part of the 19th century. Proust's work is known for its long, elaborate sentences — some of which are several pages long — and sensory descriptions.

The novel features more than 2,000 characters and deals with a wide variety of themes, such as the nature of memory, the conflict between art and society, World War I and homosexuality. Other themes include the rise of the middle class and the decline of the aristocracy. Much of this work is autobiographical, so studying the author's life can give a Proust scholar significant insight into the novel.

Writings Relate to Many Fields

Focusing one's study on the life and work of a single author might be considered a very specialized endeavor. Proust's works, however, are considered to have many connections to various fields of study, such as French and European history, human sexuality, psychology and philosophy. A Proust scholar might choose to focus his or her studies on one of these areas or a few of them, or he or she might try to synthesize many of them.

Proust Scholars' Roles

Proust scholars typically work at institutions of higher learning, such as universities, and might begin their study of the author by taking undergraduate courses in certain related but broader fields, such as French literature. Progression to earning a master's degree and doctorate is considered mandatory to become a true Proust scholar. In addition to individual study and work with colleagues, a Proust scholar will likely teach some graduate and/or undergraduate courses and often will work with graduate students who are developing their theses.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


Mexicana, he wasn't that disturbed, he tried to kill himself? Although that is a problem it doesn't mean he was disturbed -- more like depressed.


McMurty mentions Proust in his song "Red Dress."


Marcel Proust was referred to in at least one episode of "The Gilmore Girls" TV show. Rory's teacher, Max loaned a copy of "Swan's Way" to Laurali.


The character in Little Miss Sunshine, referred to "mexicana," was more than a Proust scholar, he was considered the number one Proust scholar in the nation.


how wonderful it is to be so important as to have others study you and your work so thoroughly!


Of course, the reason that most of us even know this reference is from Little Miss Sunshine, which is a great, great movie. One of the main characters is a Proust scholar and a very disturbed person at that!

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