Becoming Marcel Proust: Claiming Self in a Conflicted World

2 hours 30 minutes



Becoming Marcel Proust: Claiming Self in a Conflicted World

Topics: Active Imagination, Archetypes, Art and Art Therapy, The Collective Unconscious, Family and Intimate Relationships, Grief, Individuation, Shadow, Society and Culture, Visionary Arts.

Redemption through art was certainly what he wanted; what he left us were the brilliant fruits of his affection for the unredeemed world.

(M. Wood, Time of the Assassin, London Review of Books, vol. 17, no. 2, 26 Jan, 1995)

Dipping a petite, fluted, scalloped French cake, a madeleine, into a cup of lime-flower tea became the iconic vehicle or symbol of a “Proustian moment”: a sudden, rhapsodic union of childhood memories flowing into his adulthood present, creating a transcendent, unexpected pleasure of an “all-powerful joy”—a deeply felt, unwilled, chance encounter. Proust’s narrator is at first overwhelmed by this “involuntary memory” of numinous images and sensations, but he ultimately discovers that those originally unconscious memories possess a “power of expansion… which allow(s) them to resume their place in [his] consciousness” (Swann’s Way, vol. 1, p. 63). Just as in Jung’s Red Book, In Search of Lost Time chronicles the creation of an expanded self through the interplay of self-transformation and creative work.

Proust’s novel and Jung’s concepts arise in the same period. This is no coincidence. Both Jung and Proust embody the “spirit of the times” at the turn of the last century that led to revolutions in painting, literature, architecture, psychology, music, science, and philosophy. For Proust and for Jung, the self is an evolving self-creation.

Proust’s seven-volume masterwork, In Search of Lost Time, is an autobiographical work of fiction, a coming-of-age tale, wherein Proust’s narrator discovers his vocation as a writer, at the same time chronicling and satirizing late 19th to early 20th century Belle Époque aristocratic society in France. The narrator carefully attends to and reflects on his innermost sensations, insights, and meditations. He also frequently appears to interrupt his description of an event or scene with disquisitions on a vast array of topics: the arts and science; the universal human experiences of the nature of love and its shadow side of possessiveness and jealousy; the multiple sides of a person’s character; the temporal quality of memory; the conundrum of time; as well as reading, grief, loss, death, forgetting, sleep, dreaming (and more!). These seeming digressions are not tangential but flow out of, and are interwoven with, vivid characterizations, internal dialogues and experiences of the narrator, as his thoughts “enter the action as subtly and vitally as dreams shadow our waking life” (R. Shattuck, Proust’s Way, p. 38).

The novel encompasses Jung’s ideas of what constitutes the visionary in art, embodying both Jung’s “Spirit of the Times and the Spirit of the Depths.” This trickster work of art is permeated with trickster characteristics of subversive humor that mocks the status-quo, psychological liminality in the narration with sensitivity to intermittences or inconstancies of feelings and consciousness, and paradoxical multiplicity and complexity that reveal and accept change as a constant both within us and without. In his struggles to find his vocation as a writer, the narrator simultaneously embodies and claims his self.

Recorded on Friday, November 6th, 2020.

PowerPoint: The slides are included in the video.

Reference List: A reference list for Judith Coopers talk is included with the download.


Learning Objectives

After this course, participants will be able to:

1) Demonstrate the ways in which Proust’s novel illustrates Jung’s “Spirit of the Depths” and Jung’s ideas of visionary works of art;

2) Recognize how the novel and narrator embody the characteristics of the Trickster archetype; and

3) Apply to your own life experiences Proust’s ideas of the self and the process of self-recognition.

Recommended Reading

• Miller, J. C. (2004). Transcendent Function: Jung’s model of psychological growth through dialogue with the unconscious. New York: State University of New York Press.

• Shattuck, R. (2000). Proust’s Way: A field guide to In Search of Lost Time. New York: Norton.

© 2020 Judith Cooper and Julian Breslow
℗ 2020 CG Jung Institute of Chicago

Additional information

Audio Format

1 MP3 Audio File: 64MB

Video Format

1 MP4 Video File: 190MB

Video Resolution

1920×1080 x264 codec


Breslow, Julian

Julian Breslow, PhD, AM earned his PhD in English Literature from the John’s Hopkins University in 1974, an AM in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1978, and a Masters in Educational Administration from Northern Illinois University in 2001. From 1972–1976, Julian served on the faculty of the English Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC). In addition to UIC, Julian has developed and taught a variety of literature courses in literature and a course in Human Development and the Humanities at Roosevelt University, College of Lake County, Oakton Community College, and other colleges in and around Chicago. As a social worker, he worked full-time in special education. At the same time, his private practice clients included children, adolescents, adults, couples; individuals and families dealing with substance abuse; and children and adults with physical disabilities. Julian has written a musical about his experiences with students who have physical disabilities. For 35 years, Julian facilitated an Older Adult Men’s Group at a subsidized building in Skokie. Julian is currently an active participant in classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) of Northwestern University, where he also co-coordinates a 3-year course on In Search of Lost Time. In addition, he volunteers with the Good Memories Choir, where he assists people who are diagnosed with early-stage dementia and their care partners. In literature, as in psychotherapy, Julian’s focus is on the individual who is telling the story.

Cooper, Judith

Judith Cooper, PsyD is a clinical psychologist and diplomate Jungian Analyst in private practice in Chicago. A graduate and member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, she teaches and supervises in the Institute's Analyst Training Program, the two-year certificate Jungian Psychotherapy and Studies Program, and has lectured widely on the anima/animus and the use of film in clinical treatment. Dr. Cooper served as a clinical supervisor and director of training at an APA-accredited psychology doctoral internship program at a community mental health center. She taught a year-long course in the Institute's Analyst Training Program on Eros in Analysis in 2016, and more recently a class on love and sexuality, Seeking Embodiment. She presented at the Art and Psyche Conference in Sicily, Italy in 2015 on Jung and Barthes, When Art Wounds. A book chapter, co-authored with Gus Cwik, Psy.D., “Numinous images of a New Ethic: A Jungian view of Kieslowski’s The Decalogue has been published in The Routledge International Handbook of Jungian Film Studies, 2018. She taught a weekend workshop, in May, 2019, to the Chicago training group on the archetypal Trickster entitled The Subversive Outsider within: Trickster as an Agent Provocateur of the Paradoxical Self. She presented at the IAAP Congress in Vienna in August, 2019 on Hail, Aphrodite!: Re-sacralization of the Goddess of Love & Sex in David Ives’ Venus in Fur. Along with a colleague, Dan Ross, they have recorded and posted on the Chicago Institute’s website, seven podcasts in a series called Healing Cinema, analyzing classical and contemporary films from a Jungian viewpoint; films include Hitchcock’s Rear Window, The Lost Daughter, and most recently, the acclaimed film Tar. Age Groups Adults Types of Treatment Individuals Contact [email protected] 773.720.3551 In-Person/Telehealth: In-Person & Telehealth Main Office: 3139 N Lincoln Ave UNIT 207, Chicago, IL, 60657



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