Áine Larkin

aineÁine Larkin is Lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen, and author of Proust Writing Photography (Oxford: Legenda, 2011). She has contributed chapters to a number of books on Proust, including Marcel Proust in Context (ed. Adam Watt, Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Cent ans de jalousie proustienne (eds. Erika Fülöp and Philippe Chardin, Classiques Garnier, 2015). With Claire Launchbury, she co-edited a special issue of Romance Studies entitled Unsettling Scores: Proust and Music (2014). A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin (BA (Hons) 2000 and PhD 2007) and the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III (DEA 2001), in 2008 she was awarded a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship by the IRCHSS. Her research interests include text/image relations, Proust studies, literature and medicine, the literary representation of music and dance, and contemporary women’s writing in French.



Food matters to the protagonist of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927): Jean-Pierre Richard notes that every reader of that novel ‘a ressenti l’extrême importance de la fonction de nutrition dans toute l’étendue de la Recherche. On y mange beaucoup, et partout’.[1] Françoise is the indomitable family cook and arbiter of taste in matters gustatory, sartorial, and moral in the novel. Several of the protagonist’s significant experiences of taste and smell provide him with sensory memories which contribute significantly to the structure and subject matter of the novel as a whole when he recalls them through involuntary memory. The madeleine episode is the most obvious of these, and ‘needs little introduction’;[2] however, since the madeleine was not baked by Françoise, we will not dwell on it here. Within the overarching context of the conception and realisation of the protagonist’s creative literary vocation, his childhood experiences at Combray of observing Françoise as she prepares meals, and tasting the resulting dishes, convey important truths about the transience of life and of much art, the culinary arts in particular. Destined for destruction in the dining room, Françoise’s dishes serve as both example and foil for the protagonist as he tries to become a writer.

[1] Jean-Pierre Richard, Proust et le monde sensible (Paris : Seuil, 1974), 17.

[2] James P. Gilroy, ‘Food, Cooking, and Eating in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu’, Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 33, No. 1 (1987), 100.

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Áine LarkinAlex Bradley