Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1994

Department 1



Although A la recherche du temps perdu places center stage an extraordinary number of homosexuals, the narrator resists joining their number himself and, indeed, insists on his heterosexuality throughout the novel. Certainly there are those critics who have taken the narrator at his word, and most convincing among them is Harry Levin. In a marvelous response to Justin O'Brien and his "Albertine the Ambiguous: Notes on Proust's Transposition of the Sexes," which inspired the men-in-women's-clothing cliche in Proustian scholarship, Levin points out the pitfalls of disbelief. First of all, he notes, to use Proust's own suspected homosexuality as a justification for seeing the narrator's relationship as homosexual is to elevate gossip to the level of scholarly inquiry. And to presume that the narrator's pessimism about love is typical of homosexuality is to overlook all those unlucky-in-love heterosexuals who assume the very same attitude. Levin responds to the sexual ambiguity of Proust's women by insisting on the difficulty of any author to capture precisely the other gender and by demonstrating the folly of pursuing O'Brien's transposition theory to the limit. Francoise would become Francois, an unthinkable metamorphosis for this unequivocally female character. In short, Levin finds it highly inappropriate to question a writer's intentions: Proust wishes his females to be seen as such and so they should be. Evidence of the narrator's homosexuality becomes purely circumstantial and nothing requires the reader to reject the narrator as the heterosexual he says he is.