rhizomes.05 fall 2002

Post-Proustian Glamour [1]
Michael Angelo Tata

"Fashions are a collective medicament for the ravages of oblivion."
-Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (B9a,1)

[1] After Proust-that is, after one has completed the "Proustian Circuit ," [2] having entered at Combray, within the space of the insomniac, having traversed Paris, Balbec, Venice, spaces belonging alternately to the lovesick adolescent, the watcher of the sea and young female efflorescence, the obsessed erotic inmate, the gerontic fugitive guilty of murdering an all-benevolent grandmother, the fugitive from oblivion putting off the last moments of eternal forgetfulness, the pussywhipped student of architecture fleeing the eternal present of musical rapture for the safety of "mamma" (O Sole Mio...), and having exited chez la Nouvelle Princesse, in the space of the time-travelling flâneur-dandy who discovers sublimity in the saturation of madeleine by tea, the unnevenness of time-eroded steps, the clang of a spoon knocking against a plate, the crispness of a napkin, of the gerontophobe reentering society only to make his final exit, of the lost artist finding in "Time" the subject of his belated novel [3]-after we complete this psychological, ontological, botanical, aesthetic journey, where are we? To be more specific: after Proust, what kind of selves can we become? After we have seen the narrator of A la recherche du temps perdu metamorphose and metempsychose into and out of any number of subpersonae, after our own sense of "self" has expanded to incorporate some sense of internal otherness, some vague flavor of what it might mean to fragment into an indeterminate number of selves, each one self-sufficient and incompatible with other selves, and, most importantly, after we have inserted these selves into some temporal gridwork or geodesic (Einstein's word for the curvature of spacetime), [4] after we have reintegrated them into a temporality which can only ensure that the "cellular replenishment" they represent for Proust will one day come to an end, after our own sense of selfhood reaches the point of crisis, how do we reconstitute (1) ourselves, (2) space, (3) time such that psychosis is avoided or deferred?

Einstein's geometrization of gravity as pattern for a cosmic gown
(Looking Glass Universe, 66).

[2] But my question is even more specific than that. What I really want to know "after Proust" is what kind of "fashion creatureliness" [5] remains; in other words, knowing full well that time will destroy all-at the same time, of course, that it will provide the basis for joy, rapture, sublimity-I wish to renegotiate the concept of "glamour" or "chic" in the aftermath of the many "fashion incidents" which have carried me along the Proustian circuit. In a previous unpublished (yet not unpublishable!) paper, Proustian Interventions, I had looked playfully at the fashion theories of Odette Swann (and Odette de Crécy-and Mademoiselle de Sacripant, and the Lady in Pink-all the many "Odettes" in "Odette") in order to unfold a glamour poetics of palimpsest, anachronism, metempsychosis; now, seeking to expand my notion of Proust's many fashion theories, my desires have left Odette (the fabulous ruby she earns in exchange for covering Saint-Loup's tracks to and from Sodom glittering on her finger, as she, in defiance of the laws of chronology, vanishes to a single rubescent point) and have found four new fashion creatures to subject to the vestimentary-poetical analysis I have, with Roland Barthes [6] as my inspiration, sought to develop. The second woman with whom the young narrator falls in love, Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes; a woman with whom he never falls in love, the Queen of Naples; the third and final woman with whom he ever falls in love, Albertine Simonet; and a woman who recharges the his amorous apparatus, Mme de Saint-Euverte: each possesses personal fashion theories which, at the level of their own lives within the World of Proust, structure their own careers as public selves, while at the level of "The Narrator's Theories of Art" functioning as surrogates for various theories of artistic production. Thus each fashion creature (fashion victim?), [7] in fleshing out her own theory of what it means to prepare for public display, also unbeknownst to her flashes out a theory of what it means for Proust to prepare for literary display (and they are in good company-St. Loup's theories about the art of war, Charlus' genealogies, and Brichot's etymologies, for example, fulfill similar roles). My wish is to look to their fashions to discover their fashion theories-and it is a selfish wish, more the desire to discover varieties of glamour that survive and postdate the Proustian circuit-so that I might gain a deeper understanding of the fashion semiotics inaugurated by Roland Barthes, so that I might further develop my own personal concept of late twentieth/early twenty-first century chics, and so that I might gain some insights into the Narrator's own literary project, as well as my own. Given that fashion exists at a privileged nexus of space, time and self, it is inevitable that the various fashions and fashion creatures or victims of Proust be allotted their share of literary-critical attention.

[3] Yet it is not an extra-contextual glamour that interests me at this time: my fascination with Oriane, Naples' Queen, Albertine and Mme de Saint-Euverte is what I would call their "glamour-in-action," or the way in which their individual glamours [8]-and their glamours are quite distinctive, despite the fact that Oriane becomes, along with Elstir, M. de Charlus, and, in some oblique, "obtuse" [9] way, the Narrator, a fashion-educator to Albertine-function in particular situations. Since my one of my interests is the connection between fashion and death [10] in Proust, I have chosen scenes of considerable drama: Oriane's failure to countenance Swann's illness, the social ruination of M de Charlus at Mme Verdurin's salon, Albertine's break with the narrator and the fatal riding accident which occurs shortly thereafter, and the Narrator's reintegration into temporality. The "death" of these scenes contrasts sharply with their "fashion": Oriane's mismatched black shoes, the Queen of Naples' "hypostatized" fan, Albertine's "bildungsromanesque" devotion to the Fortuny label, and Mme de Saint-Euverte's dazzling immanent-transcendent Empire fuchsia. How is it that at moments of impending or ongoing disaster, it is fashion which rushes in to absorb or deflect negative energies? Why give fashion this role? For Proust, the accoutrement, the piece, the detail, [11] acts the part of sponge, somehow-a Proustian miracle of incarnation-standing in for the ineffable, the inexorable, the impossible, which it expresses, diverts, and makes possible with a certain fall into concreteness. The radical concreteness of Oriane's black shoes vis-à-vis Swann's illness, of the Queen of Naples' fan vis-à-vis the social decline of Palamède, of the Fortuny label vis-à-vis Albertine's break with the Narrator, or Mme de Saint-Euverte's dress vis-à-vis oblivion, startle, amaze, horrify: how is it that these things are able to do the work of the abstract, that they are able to crystallize at such decisive moments? "In action," fashion and, fashion's nimbus or aura, or perhaps even the electron cloud surrounding fashion (if we are to borrow Niels Bohr's language), glamour, point to the extreme importance of surface in Proust-or, to phrase it more eloquently and, ontologically, more richly, point to the indivisibility of surface from "subface," of appearance from truth, the cutaneous from the visceral. For, as we have learned from our first educator, Odette, "fashion" is one of the sites at which distinctions between interior and exterior are frustrated, her radical vestimentary juxtapositions, the "x within an x" structure of her "Chinese puzzle box" chic, illuminating the indissolubleness and holism of inner and outer phenomena and their aspects. [12]

[4] Furthermore, in light of the fact that what I have called the Proustian Circuit is itself a pattern for a dress, [13] it is imperative for those of us who have come out of this circuit to examine the dress we find ourselves wearing after Proust has clothed us. At the conclusion to Time Regained, the Narrator reflects on his choice of aesthetic process:

And-for at every moment the metaphor uppermost in my mind changed as I began to represent to myself more clearly and in a more material shape the task upon which I was about to embark-I thought that at my big deal table, under the eyes of Françoise, who like all unpretentious people who live at close quarters with us would have a certain insight into the nature of my labours (and I had sufficiently forgotten Albertine to have forgiven Françoise anything that she might have done to injure her), I should work beside her and in a way almost as she worked herself (or at least as she had worked in the past, for now, with the onset of old age, she had almost lost her sight) and, pinning here and there an extra page, I should construct my book, I dare not say ambitiously like a cathedral, but quite simply like a dress" (1089-1090).

Rejecting "cathedral-building" as operative metaphor for literary production, he looks to dressmaking for inspiration, writing his book not as Bergotte would have written it, nor as Elstir would have "painted" it, but as, had it been a dress, Françoise would have sewn it. With dressmaking occupying so grand a role as template for acts of literary creation, we encounter the flipside to "garment": "pattern." The novel's great tailors and dressmakers-namely, Françoise and Jupien-are the characters who own the famous "Open Sesame" which Charlus erroneously credits to himself, for it is they who are most in control of the action: hence Jupien will be in charge of the house of assignation the Narrator follows Saint-Loup into just previous to the air raid, and Françoise will provide both the inspiration and operative metaphor for Proust's artistic process. With glamour and its sisters occupying so frivolous yet so central a position in Proust's novel-glamour, fashion, garment, pattern, fashion theory-it is imperative for me to investigate the workings of glamour in the four specific circumstances I have enumerated, my hope all the while being to come away from the cosmic dress of Mme de Saint-Euverte, that sartorial grand finale and Proust's fashion coup de grace, his final fashion conundrum, more attuned to the temporal and eternal significances of glamour, and to its (glamour's) redistribution of surface phenomena, its deployment of pattern for purpose.

Mme La Duchesse: Vestimentary Anacoluthon

[5] Andy Warhol's A La Recherche du Shoe Perdu, one artist's intervention into Proust, receives its full vindication at the end of The Guermantes Way, as Oriane, from whom the Narrator, after his mother's propitious comment "You really must stop hanging about trying to meet Mme de Guermantes. You're becoming a laughing-stock. Besides, look how ill your grandmother is, you really have something more serious to think about than waylaying a woman who doesn't care a straw about you" (385), is cured of his infatuation, applies her famous Guermantes wit to her evening ensemble, much to the exasperation of her husband-all in the afterquake (or absence of afterquake) of Swann's revelation of his proximity to the abyss of death. Swann's proclamation "But, my dear lady, it's because I shall then have been dead for several months. According to the doctors I've consulted, by the end of the year the thing I've got-which may, for that matter, carry me off at any moment-won't in any case leave me any more than three or four months to live, and even that is a generous estimate" (617-618), a grave announcement carried off with a polite society smile as a response to the Duchesse's jealous insisting that Swann, who has just travelled to Italy with Mme de Montmorency, accompany her to Italy, is met with denial by the Duchesse, who, unsure of how to reconcile the imminent death of her bosom friend with her own desire to attend Mme de Saint-Euverte's dinner-party and the following 1 a.m. costume ball, chooses the path of least resistance. "You're joking," she replies, pretending not to believe Swann so that, like her husband, who prefers to believe that Amanien d'Osmond will make it through the night so that his expected assignation might not fall through, her pleasures might not be complicated by moral responsibilities (618). Looking to her internalized "code of conventions" and finding it absolutely lacking in any rule for resolving the incompatibilities of her two duties (dining out, showing compassion for Swann), she dismisses the proposition "Swann is sick" so that she might comply with her duty to attend Mme de Saint-Euverte's fête. Her moral philosophy, a virtual algebra of premises reminiscent of Morel's own mania for algebra, proceeds according to a principle of minimal effort: when two premises lead to competing duties, dismiss the one which is most easily dismissed. [14]

[6] Swann has already complimented Oriane's rubies, to which she has retorted, in true Guermantes wit fashion: "They were a present from the Grand Duchess. They're a little too big for my liking, a little too like claret glasses filled to the brim, but I've put them on because we shall be seeing the Grand Duchess this evening at Marie-Gilberte's" (606). Stepping into her carriage as she continues to dismiss the severity of Swann's illness, an illness which, soon after, will carry him off into the strangely "genitive" land of death ("For we talk of 'Death' for convenience, but there are almost as many different deaths as there are people," 197), Oriane exposes her foot [15] to the view and inspection of everyone present. Lifting her red skirt, gently setting her foot on the carriage step, she reveals to the world what for her husband will become an unthinkable social gaffe: she has violated every principle of fashion decency, pairing a red ensemble with black shoes. "Oriane, what have you been thinking of, you wretch? You've kept on your black shoes! With a red dress! Go upstairs quick and put on red shoes," he admonishes, showing more emotion than he had with Amanien's informants the Alpine travelers Princesse de Silistrie, Walpurge and Dorothée, or with Swann. The fashion crisis is supereminent: unlike mortal death, it cannot be dismissed-nor is there any necessity of referring it to some internalized code of ethical principles and hierarchies, since there are no exceptions to the rule that dress and shoes match. The crisis of Oriane's shoes resolves the Narrator's own enquiry into the nature of "true friendship," [16] a path his thoughts have taken throughout this final chapter of The Guermantes Way: "Which was for me the true friend, Mme de Montmorency, so happy to ruffle my feelings and always to ready to oblige, or Mme de Guermantes, distressed by the slightest offense that might have been given me and incapable of the slightest effort to be of use to me?" (591-592). Examining the "system of looks, words and actions so coherent, so despotic" which determine the actions enabling one to construct hierarchies of friendship and to assign the value "better friend," the Narrator inadvertently finds his answer in the preferential treatment Oriane gives to her shoes (592). Concluding earlier on that "no mathematical process would have enabled one to convert Mme d'Arpajon and Mme de Montpensier into commensurable quantities," the Narrator, at the end of The Guermantes Way, seems to have reversed his opinion on social algebra, having discovered Oriane's "quantity." [17]

[7] Yet it is not Oriane but the Duc who cares about the inappropriateness of her shoes. "But, my dear...seeing that we're late," she replies, unfazed by the vestimentary taboo she is about to break. Is this the resurgence of the Duchesse's particular variety of the species "Guermantes wit" within the sphere of fashion? The Narrator explicates this wit during his first dinner at the Guermantes'; a variety of the larger category called "Guermantes wit," the wit of the Duchesse fulfills a number of functions: at times an "imitation," as when she impersonates the Duc de Limoges, at times a "shocking pun," as when she "serves up" her famous line "Teaser Augustus," at times the "innovation" of the shocking paradox, as when she "reverse(s) the scale of value," declaring Mme de Cambremer stupid and the Marquis intelligent (488), at times no more than the reheating of a dish previously served, Oriane's wit surprises those around her, like the ever-envious Marie-Gilberte, people who, whether they practice Courvoisier logic or Guermantes wit, [18] seem to operate more in accordance with a priori than a posteriori principles (unless her wit is really an a priori way of acing a postriori-that is, a planned improvising). Oriane's taste for dramatic, counterintuitive reversals-a taste which, later on, when she mourns the death of Saint-Loup, will surprise the Narrator, who suspects her wit will lead her to "try to show that she did not share the superstition about ties of blood" (882)-bears striking similarities to anacoluthon, a phenomenon which the Narrator first explains in reference to Albertine's strategies of dissembling. In The Captive, he introduces the term in an effort to make sense of Albertine's personal style of lying:

She employed, not by way of stylistic refinement, but in order to correct her imprudences, abrupt breaches of syntax not unlike that figure which the grammarians call anacoluthon or some such name. Having allowed herself, while discussing women, to say: 'I remember, the other day, I...', she would suddenly, after a 'semi-quaver rest,' change the 'I' to 'she': it was something that she had witnessed as an innocent spectator, not a thing she herself had done. It was not she who was the subject of the action. I should have liked to recall exactly how the sentence had begun, in order to decide for myself, since she had broken off in the middle, what the conclusion would have been. But since I had been awaiting that conclusion, I found it hard to remember the beginning, from which perhaps my air of interest made her deviate, and was left still anxious to know her real thoughts, the actual truth of her recollection (149).

Applying "anacoluthon" to the fashion syntax of the Duchesse yields the situation in which her shoes, those central and all-important complements to her total ensemble, become a source of indifference; reversing the scale of value such that matching her shoes to her dress and rubies counts for next to nothing, the Duchesse's particular variety of the species "Guermantes wit" causes her to attach little value to an appearance of which the reader is absolutely certain that she controls, cares about, cares for. An anacoluthon, or abrupt, mid-syntactical jolt, the black shoes carry her outfit in another direction from that in which the dress and rubies had been traveling: they shock them out of their inertia. Fortunately for her, the Guermantes genii in the form of her husband is present to rectify her error in the nick of time, just as, in other circumstances, that same genii would ensure that this woman who detested society would never cease to be a part of it, that she would never forget her aristocratic title or obligations (456).

[8] Set against an atmosphere of death-the approaching death of Amanien, the drawing to a close of Swann's life-the Duchesse's grand exit is made even more poignant by the apparent "deaths" of Oriane, as enumerated by the Duc, as he rids his house of Swann and Narrator during the critical period of the Duchesse's shoe adjustment:

"Goodbye, my boys," he said, thrusting us gently from the door, "off you go before Oriane comes down again. It's not that she doesn't like seeing you both. On the contrary, she's too fond of your company. If she finds you still here she'll start talking again. She's already very tired, and she'll reach the dinner table quite dead. Besides, I tell you frankly, I'm dying of hunger. I had a wretched luncheon this morning when I came from the train. There was the devil of a béarnaise sauce, I admit, but in spite of that I shan't be sorry, not at all sorry to sit down to dinner. Five minutes to eight! Ah, women! She'll give us both indigestion before tomorrow. She's not exactly as strong as people think" (620).

Assuring Swann that he'll be the one to bury everyone, the Duc shushes away Oriane's guests, who run the danger of tiring this poor woman who hides her weakness and frailty from the world. For the Duc, the deaths of Amanien and Swann wither in comparison with the potential dyspepsia he and his wife may very well endure as they rush to Mme de Saint-Euverte's with only a five-minute window, thanks to Oriane's sartorial blundering: their deaths are, in the moral algebra which the Narrator tries to work out in The Guermantes Way, "<" or "less than" the exhaustion of the Duchesse, who, if more chatter is permitted to tire her out, will have her own "death" to contend with. The Duc's metaphor, emitted during the "revestimentation" of Oriane, is especially cruel to Swann, whose death will be a different sleep entirely.

[9] The black shoes of the Duchesse occur at one other crucial juncture: as the Narrator, standing at the advantageous "trigonometrical point" on the staircase of his own house, waits for a sign that the Duc and Duchesse have returned home, he encounters a sign he had never expected. Posting himself by the courtyard joining his home with the Guermantes', the Narrator, hoping to find out whether his invitation to the Princesse's is legitimate or some kind of hoax, is instead granted a vision of Gomorrah. Though in The Guermantes Way we are not told the exact nature of the fruits of the Narrator's espionage-we are told merely that "a landscape, no longer Turneresque but moral" had been revealed to him-we are informed that his peeping has lead to significant discoveries, and are promised a full disclosure of them after the "interposition" of his visit with the Guermantes. Peepshow #1, the pollination of Jupien by Charlus, is momentarily replaced by Peepshow #2, the arrival of the Duc and Duchesse. The mismatched black shoes, the Peepshow within Peepshow #2, stand in for Jupien's and Charlus' amorous botany, filling the gap left by the promised revelation. His "Alpine eyrie" has given him access to two separate phenomena: the fertilization habits of Jupien and Charlus, and the vestimentary breaches of Oriane (623). The relatively tiny, microcosmic detail of the Duchesse's shoes, standing in for the macrocosmic view of new sexual possibilities to which the Narrator, though not we ourselves, at least yet, has been privy, and subsisting among a network of relations the majority of which have to do with death, does an inordinate and incredible amount of work: simply put, it reverses its dimunition, coming to dominate the text. Waiting for the shocking disclosure which will greet our salivating palates in Cities of the Plain, our world rocked by Swann's pronouncement of his death, we are given a tidbit, a morsel, a "pre-money" money shot: those syntactically-eruptive, ruby-defying shoes. "All the world's a shoe," as Warhol, channeling Proust, might say. [19]

The Queen of Naples: Fashion Alliance and Museum Chic

[10] The social ruination of M. de Charlus, an event which occurs, of all places, in the salon of the Verdurins, takes place around another of the the text's micro/macrocosmic fashion details: the fan of the Queen of Naples. Like the black shoes of the Duchesse, items which have come to absorb the displaced energies of Amanien's and Swann's deaths and of the postponement introduced by our Narrator, the voyeur, the fan of the Queen of Naples rushes in to fill out gaps and organize desire. In this particular instance, the work done by fashion is to destabilize realities previously accepted as true and, by redistributing power and redrawing alliances, to delineate the sides of a field of battle sociological in nature. The cultural and political logic of "purity" [20] as it has thus far functioned in the text-it has motivated the proliferation of discourses on what constitutes a "pure Frenchman," it has determined who resides in the zoo and who arrives to toss out comments like "Hello, nigger!" or who leaves hearing "Me nigger, you old cow!" and, during the aftermath of the Dreyfus affair, it has fostered innumerable hatreds and aversions, while post-affair it has culminated in the production of "Gilberte de Saint-Loup" from "Gilberte Swann" and "Jacques du Rozier" from "Bloch"-is laid open in this scene; through the activity surrounding and inspired by the fan, the systematization of alliances which historically has produced both the enamouring, seductive, magical, international world of the Guermantes and the horrors, atrocities, and new opportunities for beauty of World War One "precipitates out." What we are given a glimpse into is the mixing of the bourgeois world of the Verdurins with the aristocratic world of the Guermantes; traveling through Mme Verdurin's mind, we see her delight at the attention given to her by the Queen of Naples turn to humiliation and disappointment at the snub given to her by that same person: her aspirations to leave the intellectual world of the bourgeoisie for that of the aristocrats and "bores" must wait until the death of Marie-Gilberte to be fulfilled. Turning on the pivot or seed crystal provided so quietly and selflessly by the fan, the situation of social miscegenation devolves such that qualitatively unlike substances pass from solution to suspension-or, to continue in the language of chemistry which Proust so admires, a new compound arrives as chemical precipitate. A primary or originary precipitate waiting to start a chain reaction of total crystallization or supersaturation, the fan provides the occasion for a show of alliances to materialize. [21] Setting off for the Verdurin's in secret-the Narrator has lied to Albertine: "After dinner, I told Albertine that I wanted to take advantage of my friends, Mme de Villeparisis, Mme de Guermantes, the Cambremers, anyone, in short, whom I might find at home. I omitted to mention only the people whom I did intend to visit, the Verdurins." (The Captive, 191)-the Narrator attends a musical performance by Morel which, unknown to him or to anyone present, will be the last night of Morel's liaison with Charlus, as well as the last night that Charlus' proclivities [22] will remain shrouded in any mystery (though it is true that, by this time, Charlus has thrown caution to the wind, openly flaunting his sexual preference and revealing the true depth of his "depravity": "'So this is how you prowl the streets at night, Brichot, with a good-looking young man...A fine example. We must tell your young pupils at the Sorbonne that this is how you behave. But I must say that the society of youth seems to agree with you, Monsieur le Professeur, you're as fresh as a rosebud. I've interrupted you though: you looked as though you were enjoying yourselves like a pair of giddy girls, and had no need of an old Granny Killjoy like me. But I shan't go to confession for it, since you were almost at your destination,'" 207.). Morel's performance is a joint production of Charlus and Mme Verdurin: bringing together the separate worlds that each inhabits, it is for Charlus a chance to show off the artistic talents of his protégé and at the same time amuse his guests with the ridiculousness of the Verdurin set, while for Mme Verdurin it is the fortuitous and once-in-a-lifetime chance for her salon to open its gates to the aristocracy she openly despises yet for whom she as upwardly-mobile saloniste secretly lusts. Along the way, rancour has built up between Charlus and Mme Verdurin, as their tastes have come into conflict. Each of them battling for control of the precious evening, the result has been that Charlus has won the battle of aesthetic taste, but that Mme Verdurin has won the battle of sexual taste, vowing to cause an irreparable rift between Charlus and Morel similar to the one she had caused between Brichot and his mistress-and utterly dissimilar to the failed rifts she had tried to instigate between Swann and Odette or Elstir and his wife. In actuality, the Baron has done a number of things to enflame Mme Verdurin's ire: Morel has refused to play for some of her friends because Charlus would not be present; Charlus has vetoed many of the guests she had desired to invite to the evening, permitting only Saniette to attend; and, the icing on the gateau, the guests he deigned to invite from among the reserves of the aristocracy have been unforgivably rude to her, either refusing to be introduced to her or gawking from a distance as if she, with her snowy locks and throbbing temples, were some kind of circus spectacle. Even more sinful, from the point of view of Mme Verdurin, is the potentiality of Charlus lending out Morel's talents to Mme de Moretmart, who wishes to host her own musical evening and thus constitutes a rival salon or cultural nucleus, an entity Mother Verdurin, herself every inch the "eugenicist" that Charlus is, cannot tolerate. Throughout this scene, the dialectics of purity will work to mobilize hatreds: Mme Verdurin, concluding that Morel is "hers," despises the thought that he might perform for some other salon; the aristocracy, present for the Baron's benefit but not wishing to demonstrate any graciousness to Mme Verdurin, refuses to mix with her set; Charlus, "borrowing" Mme Verdurin's salon to showcase his lover's abilities, does not permit her aesthetics to infiltrate his. There is, among these rivaling factions, only one person who crosses battle-lines, crawling out of her proverbial trench: the Queen of Naples.

[11] "Show me which is Mother Verdurin. Do you think I really need to get myself introduced to her? I do hope, at least, that she won't put my name in the paper to-morrow; nobody in my family would ever speak to me again. What, that woman with the white hair? But she looks quite presentable" (247): in attendance for the Baron, the guests he has invited from among the nobility make no pretense of hiding, masking or finessing their aversion to Mme Verdurin, to whom they refuse to be introduced, choosing instead to whisper snide comments just out of earshot-much as, later on in the evening, Mme de Mortemart will unsuccessfully whisper to Charlus plans for an evening which excludes Mme de Valcourt, whose "megaphone" will make her cruelty hyperaudible. The Queen of Naples, a "soldier queen" [23] who herself had fired muskets during a battle at Gaeta, the Queen of Naples, champion of the underdog, is the only one from among the Baron's ranks to pretend for Mme Verdurin's benefit that she has arrived not for Morel, not for Charlus, but for her:

Only the Queen of Naples, in whom survived the same noble blood that had survived in the veins of her sisters the Empress Elisabeth and the Duchesse d'Alençon, made a point of talking to Mme Verdurin as though she had come for the pleasure of meeting her rather than for the music and for M. de Charlus, made endless gracious speeches to her hostess, never stopped telling her how much she had always wanted to make her acquaintance, complimented her on her house and spoke to her on all manners of subjects as though she were paying a call. She would so much have liked to bring her niece Elisabeth, she said (the niece who shortly afterwards was to marry Prince Albert of Belgium), who would be so disappointed! She stopped talking when she saw the musicians mount the platform, and asked which of them was Morel (248).

Her kindness to Mme Verdurin contrasts sharply with the rudeness of both Charlus and the guests he has brought into this lower ontological sphere/electron shell, a locus somewhere below "the fourteenth story below stairs" on which he locates the fallen Vagouberts. The Queen's elegance shows up against a background of agglomerating, cumulative slights-most notably, the Baron's urological and scatalogical account of Mme Verdurin's taste in housewares: "'No more iced coffee cups, remember! Give them to one of your friends whose house you wish to disfigure. But warn her not to have them in the drawingroom, or people might think that they had come into the wrong room, the things are so exactly like chamberpots'" (270). Mme Verdurin's rage grows; flattered by the Queen, whose overtures she has mistaken as genuine, she endures critiques of her taste in decoration, Mme d' Arpajon's question about whether or not a M. Verdurin exists, the fits of laughter guests break into in front of her Elstirs, the equation of her home to a "shed" or "bathroom" magnificently transformed by Charlus into some sort of cultural refectory (275).

[12] At the end of the evening, Charlus increases Mme Verdurin's fury even further, crediting himself with displacing "the huge volume of air" which separates her atmospheric layer from those far above in the aristocratic stratosphere. It is at this point that the Baron discusses the importance of the Queen of Naples' presence in a salon in which she would otherwise never be seen:

"Bear in mind that to attend your party the Queen of Naples name up from Neuilly, which is a great deal more difficult for her than it was to leave the Two Sicilies," he added with malicious intent, notwithstanding his admiration for the Queen. "It's an historic event. Just think that it's perhaps the first time she has gone anywhere since the fall of Gaeta. It may well be that the history-books will record as climactic dates the day of the fall of Gaeta and that of the Verdurin reception. The fan that she laid down the better to applaud Vinteuil deserves to become more famous than the fan Mme de Metternich broke because the audience hissed Wagner" (276).

Obsessed with the historical importance of his mixing the likes of the Queen of Naples and Mme d'Arpajon with the likes of Mme Verdurin and Saniette, Charlus waxes effusive about the fan which the Queen of Naples, in her departure for another of the evening's soirées, has inadvertently left behind on the very chair she sat upon during the "day of the Verdurin reception" which the history-books will one day apotheosize. Charlus approaches the fan as if it were the femur of a saint, or some such relic, [24] exclaiming "Oh, how moving!...It's all the more touching for being so hideous; the little violet is incredible!", going on to savor the convulsions which would have killed Swann had he been alive to attend the reception. Mixing his tenderness toward the Queen with cruel jeers about her poverty, Charlus ends his discourse on the sublimity of the Queen's fan with an invocation of the vitrine in which the fan belongs: "I shall bequeath it to a museum. In the meantime, it must be sent back to her, so that she need not hire a cab to come and fetch it. The wisest thing, in view of the historical interest of such an object, would be to steal the fan. But that would be awkward for her-since it is probable that she does not possess another" (277). Tracing the historical value of the fan to his own role as "organ of dissemination," praising himself for the "concatenation of circumstances" his social mediation has brought about, Charlus, himself a maker of fans (only one fan-Oriane's) is the source of the fan's glamour and historical mystique. [25]

[13] After Mme Verdurin's humiliation of Charlus-a humiliation which, if we believe the Narrator, leads to a surprising saintliness in the Baron, making the fan a hagiographical or hagiogenetic device-the fan will take on another value, becoming the pivot on which the Queen of Naples' alliance turns. As soon as Charlus finishes his post-concert "wrap-up" talk with Mme Verdurin, whom he deserts for the company of General Deltour, the abyss he has been approaching is there to swallow him whole. Using Brichot to distract the Baron, Mme Verdurin forces a rupture between Charlus and Morel: "You're the talk of the Conservatoire," she warns, intimating that his musical career will suffer if he continues his homosexual liaison (314); "Such as when he told us, with screams of laughter, that if you want the Cross it's to please your uncle and that your uncle was a flunky," she hisses, implying that Charlus has revealed his low social origins to the mirth and amusement of his friends (319). The "reversal of alliances" which Morel instantly begins to contemplate on learning that Charlus will both ruin his musical prestige and reveal his class standing is solidified by Mme Verdurin, who, sure that the Queen of Naples is her new ally, tempts Morel with the prospect of performing in her house: with her as his new producer, he does not need the Baron. Alliances rapidly and publicly reverse as Morel, on seeing Charlus after his enlightening conversation with Mme Verdurin, loudly accuses Charlus of perverting him. An extraordinary thing happens: Charlus greets Morel's "meteorite" with suppliance and speechlessness. And another extraordinary thing happens: the Queen of Naples, who has come to fetch her forgotten fan, overhears Ski recount Charlus' mortification to the Verdurins. Alliances are about to be redrawn well beyond Morel's or Mme Verdurin's expectations:

She was crimson with shame on his behalf that the Verdurins should dare to treat him in this fashion. The unaffected civility which she had shown them a few hours earlier, and the arrogant pride with which she now confronted them, had their source in the same region of her heart. The Queen was a woman of great kindness, but she conceived of kindness first and foremost in the form of an unshakable attachment to the people she loved, to her own family, to all the princes of her race, among whom was M. de Charlus, and, after them, to all the people of the middle classes or of the humblest populace who knew how to respect those whom she loved and were well-disposed towards them (326).

Keeping Mme Verdurin and Morel at bay, both of whom have arrived so that Mme Verdurin might present Morel to a potential new musical patron, her fan in one hand and Charlus on one arm, she makes her alliance crystal clear: "'Lean on my arm. You may be sure that it will always support you. It is strong enough for that...You know how in the past, at Gaeta, it held the mob at bay. It will be a shield to you'" (327). A figure at once glamourous and martial, yet also outmoded and "of the period," like Princess Concetta in Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel of Garibaldi's revolution The Leopard, the Queen of Naples becomes an animatronic, Disney-esque museum exhibit performing her chic, using it to revert society to the alliances which are its deepest structure.

Albertine Simonet: Genesis of the Label Whore

[14] While the respective chics of fashion plates Odette and Oriane do not seem to attach to any one particular label, and while the Queen of Naples' attaches not to a label but an entire past political and aesthetic history, the chic of Albertine, the only one of the Narrator's obsessions with whom he ends up in an amorous relationship, does indeed attach to a label: Fortuny. The Captive and The Fugitive are Albertine's fashion bildungsroman, her passage from being a ward of Mme Bontemps to becoming a woman of taste. Like Odette, Albertine evolves, her taste and acquisitiveness ever on the increase; unlike Odette, the increase is linear and, like a vector, directed. Renouncing any claim to fashion authority, not being a "man of detail" like Charlus, or like Oriane's fashion-conscious husband, the Narrator relies on the responses of others as he pieces together the novel of Albertine's coming-to-be. At the Verdurin reception that will be his undoing, Charlus provides one such index: "You have very good taste, by the way. Your cousin is charming. Ask Brichot, she quite turned his head at Doville. Shall we be seeing her this evening? She really is extremely pretty. And she would be even prettier if she cultivated a little more of the rare art, which she possesses naturally, of dressing well" (The Captive, 220). Earlier, during the journey of Mme Verdurin's faithful along the Transatlantic from Balbec Plage to La Raspelière, Charlus mistakenly informs Albertine that she has dressed in the same costume as the Princesse de Cardigan; seeing only her grey crêpe de chine skirt and jacket of grey cheviot, he doesn't suspect the existence of the her Scottish plaid blouse which, as she takes off her jacket with the assistance of the Narrator, erupts like a rainbow or Newtonian spectrum to disrupt the otherwise Elstirian, Anglophile sobriety of what appeared to be an all-grey ensemble. The sudden emergence of her pastel sleeves gives her pause, as she waits to see if Charlus, who complimented her on her monochromaticity, will find favor with this unanticipated burst of color-which of course he does: "Ah!...now we have a ray, a prism of colour. I offer you my sincerest compliments" (Cities of the Plain, 1089). As this particular scene shows, the development of Albertine's fashion aesthetic, as well as her development of other tastes, such as her taste in painting or in literature, is a complicated affair involving the intervention of the Narrator, who, though he consistently denies any expertise in Baudelaire's "mute language of clothes" which individuals like Charlus and Albertine speak with varying degrees of volubility, seems to be epistemologically advanced, as well as Albertine's emulation of "taste experts" like Elstir and the existence of a class of persons capable of reading her surfaces, a fashion audience:

The coincidence was due to the fact that, in choosing Albertine's clothes, I drew my inspiration from the taste that she had acquired thanks to Elstir, who had a liking for the sort of sobriety that might have been called British had it not been tempered with a softness that was purely French. As a rule the clothes he preferred offered to the eye a harmonious combination of grey tones, like the dress of Diane de Cardigan. M. de Charlus was almost the only person capable of appreciating Albertine's clothes at their true value; his eye detected at a glance what constituted their rarity, their worth; he would never have mistaken one material for another, and could always recognize the maker. But her preferred-in women-a little more brightness and color than Elstir could allow (1089).

Like Albertine's sleeves, which open up a new world of vestimentary and chromatic possibilities, Albertine's fashion tastes open into a series of problems: Can the Narrator really be as tasteless as he claims, since it is he who is able to dress her? What role do fashionable men like Elstir and Charlus have in shaping her tastes? How are competing fashion aesthetics resolved-in this instance, within the same ensemble? As with Odette, what surface relations are possible and desirable? How "mute" is this "mute language?"

[15] Albertine's developments within the sphere of taste are shown not only by her facility at deploying a "fashion vocabulary" (i.e. her creation of a fashion semiotics in which her clothes form a sort of text, as well as her success as a consumer [26]) but also by her increasing verbal eloquence. "While you're asleep I read your books, you old lazybones" she comments during a drive along the Bois-this in response to the Narrator's miniaturizing "But how learned my little Albertine is becoming!" (The Captive, 164). Albertine's comment reveals what goes on during the Narrator's long hours of sleep, those mornings when, by house rules, she is not permitted to disrupt his slumber: while he sleeps, she educates herself (versus: while she sleeps, he watches her sleep). Albertine's diffuseness, as evidenced by the Narrator's equation of Albertine with the spanked sea in the story of Xerxes scourging the ocean, condenses at moments such as these, as we learn to see her not as the diffuse miasma of womanhood that she becomes in her sleep, but as ontologically thick and in the process of becoming thicker (her skyrocketing weight literalizes this metaphor). Albertine's eloquence is made manifest by her disquisition on ices, itself a response to the cacophony of "street sounds" with which Albertine's captivity begins:

Oh, dear, at the Ritz I'm afraid you'll find Vendôme Columns of ice, chocolate ice or raspberry, and then you'll need a lot of them so that they may look like votive pillars or pylons erected along an avenue to the glory of Coolness. They make raspberry obelisks too, which will rise up here and there in the desert of my thirst, and I shall make their pink granite crumble and melt deep down in my throat which they will refresh better than any oasis...Those mountains of ice at the Ritz sometimes suggest Monte Rosa, and indeed, if it's a lemon ice, I don't object to its not having a monumental shape, its being irregular, abrupt, like one of Elstir's mountains. It musn't be too white then, but slightly yellowish, with that look of dull, dirty snow that Elstir's mountains have. The ice needn't be at all big, only half an ice if you like, those lemon ices are still mountains, reduced to a tiny scale, but our imagination restores their dimensions, like those Japanese dwarf trees which one feels are still cedars, oaks, manchineels; so much so that if I arranged a few of them beside a little trickle of water in my room I should have a vast forest, stretching down to a river, in which children would lose their way. In the same way, at the foot of my yellowish lemon ice, I can see quite clearly postillions, travellers, post-chaises over which my tongue sets to work to roll down freezing avalanches that will swallow them up...just as...I set my lips to work to destroy, pillar by pillar, those Venetian churches of a porphyry that is made with strawberries, and send what's left over crashing down upon the worshippers. Yes, all those monuments will pass from their stony state into my inside which throbs already with their melting coolness" (126).

For the Narrator, Albertine's eloquence, as demonstrated by this quote, is de trop: too "bookish," perhaps pedantic, it introduces the possibility that their futures might not be conjoined at the same time that it serves as proof of both Albertine's love of him and of the influence he has had on her nascent and burgeoning intellect. Another instance of Albertine's eloquence occurs when Albertine expounds upon the architecture of the church at Marcouville l'Orgueilleuse:

What does it matter if the building is new, if it appears old, or even if it doesn't? All the poetry that the old quarters contain has been squeezed out to the last drop, but if you look at some of the houses that have been built lately for well-to-do tradesmen in the new districts, where the stone is all freshly cut and still to white, don't they seem to rend the torrid mid-day air of July, at the hour when the shopkeepers go home to lunch in the suburbs, with a cry as sharp and acidulous as the smell of the cherries waiting for the meal to begin in the darkened dining-room, where the prismatic glass knife-rests throw off a multicoloured light as beautiful as the windows of Chartres? (165).

As in the case of the ices, her verbal aptitude has increased since the days of Balbec, when, a member of the polyplike "Little Band," there was less of a sense of Albertine's individuality. Albertine's catachreses, the floweriness of her metaphors which, like overripe fruit, are for the Narrator fulsome and nauseating in their excess, mark the progress narrative Albertine pursues in her post-polyp individuality.

[16] In matters of fashion, Albertine's best mentor has been the Narrator's ex-hypercathexis, Mme de Guermantes. Though somewhat remiss with her own appearance in the scene of the black shoes, the Duchesse is a paragon of taste in her education of Albertine through the Narrator; the mediation of the fashion ignoratum (i.e. the self-professed fashion idiot, the Narrator) between the expert (the Duchesse) and the novice (Albertine) facilitates the vital flow of information along its "chic gradient." Somehow a part of her peasant atavism, the Fortuny dresses she wears and which Albertine will come to desire situate Oriane in a provincial, agricultural landscape; her conversation "a regular museum of French history," her voice a guttural, back-of-the-throat succession of disembodied, extrasyntactical vowels and consonants (see her pronunciation of "C'est le petit Léon," The Captive, 29), her body clothed in Fortuny gowns evocative of an "Oriental" past, she fuses "peasant" with "aristocrat" in the relaxed elegance of her demeanor. The Narrator approaches Mme de Guermantes in order to learn how he should perfect Albertine's appearance, with knowledge about the Fortuny label high on his list of epistemological priorities. Informed by Elstir that Oriane is the pinnacle of Parisian fashion, Albertine comes to idolize her; responding to her lust for Mme de Guermantes' dresses, shoes, and accessories, the Narrator, all the while denying his own fashion knowledge, seeks out the Duchesse's company, a company he no longer desires in-itself but only as it relates to Albertine, so that he might learn how to assemble Albertine into a woman of taste and elegance. On one such visit to the Duchesse's house, the Narrator, in search of a "lesson in elegance" which can be passed on to Albertine, comments on the red ensemble worn by Oriane the night of her cruelty to Swann: "'For instance, Madame, that evening when you dined with Mme de Saint-Euverte, and then went on to the Princesse de Guermantes, you had a dress that was all red, with red shoes, you were marvellous, you reminded me of a sort of great blood-red blossom, a glittering ruby-now, what was that dress called? Is it the sort of thing that a young girl can wear?" (30). The Duchesse's reply-"I wasn't aware that I looked like a glittering ruby or blood-red blossom, but I do indeed remember that I had on a red dress: it was red satin, which was being worn that season. Yes, a young girl can wear that sort of thing at a pinch, but you told me that your friend never went out in the evening. It's a full evening dress, not a thing that she can put on to pay calls."-provides one of the "driblets" he, on behalf of Albertine (or on behalf of himself) acquires. Transposing Oriane's fashions from the coordinate system "middle-aged woman" to the coordinate system "young girl," the Narrator seeks to reconstruct the chic of a past amorous obsession in a younger analogue-a situation which can only produce monstrosity.

[17] Appealed to by "everything made by Fortuny," Albertine models herself on the chic depicted by Carpaccio's Miracle of the Relic of the True Cross and similar Venetian paintings held in high esteem by Elstir; going all out to please the captive whose pixie's wings he has clipped, the Narrator does everything in his power to acquire Fortuny dresses for her (375). The "imminent return" of Venetian chic, a trend foretold by Elstir and put into practice by Albertine, clothes Albertine in the costume of a Venice reminding the Narrator of his own failure to travel to Venice-a failure for which he blames Albertine. The complicated psychoanalysis of the Fortuny dress, an item which the Narrator acquires in spite of the pain and torture it causes him, only to clothe a captive toward whom he feels indifferent, eventually culminates in rupture, as the Narrator, spurred on by comments the jealous and Eulalie-minded Françoise has made, erupts with a violence which puts a permanent wedge between himself and Albertine. On the evening Albertine first wears the Fortuny gown he has purchased for her-an indoor gown in blue and gold lined with pink-the fashion début and Albertine's most glorious fashion moment becomes the source of the Narrator's alienating outburst. The gown reminds him of a Venice he has relinquished:

The Fortuny gown which Albertine was wearing that evening seemed to me the tempting phantom of that invisible Venice. It was covered with Arab ornamentation, like the Venetian palaces hidden like sultan's wives behind a screen of pierced stone, like the columns from which the oriental birds that symbolized alternatively life and death were repeated in the shimmering fabric, of an intense blue which, as my eyes drew nearer, turned into a malleable gold by those same transmutations which, before an advancing gondola, change into gleaming metal the azure of the Grand Canal. And the sleeves were lined with a cherry pink which is so particularly Venetian that it is called Tieopolo pink (401).

Chastising her for ingratitude, he begins a discussion which ultimately destroys what remains of his relationship. That night, she is a changed woman: "When it was time for her to say good-night and I kissed her, she did not behave as usual, but turned her face away-it was barely a minute or two since I had been thinking how pleasing it was that she now gave me every evening what she had refused me at Balbec-and did not return my kiss" (406). Two nights later, he will take her to Versailles for a night drive. Clothed in her Fortuny dressing-gown and one of her two Fortuny coats, the new, flatter, more apathetic Albertine takes the ride which later, in one of the many missives sent to the Narrator during their separation, she will describe as "doubly crepuscular"-"since night was falling and we were about to part" (477). Though they spy what is generally a source of aesthetic and technological sublimity, an aeroplane, there is no escape from present realities, for soon, the "death" which is the Narrator's interpretation of the pigeons' song immediately following Albertine's fatal change in disposition, will claim her, Fortuny gown and all (though she will not die wearing Fortuny, but a sporty outfit more similar to her Balbec activewear).

[18] It is no accident that the one designer Proust should choose to set the terms of Albertine's fashion transformations should be Mariano Fortuny. Painter, set designer, inventor, owner of 22 patents for items ranging from a "Système d'éclairage scénique pour lumière indirecte" (1901) to a "Genre d'étoffe plisseés-ondulée" (1909), Mariano Fortuny provided a vision of chic which brought together so many of Proust's textual and literary concerns, the paramount one being extratemporality:

Fortuny invented fashion outside fashion, fashion that does not change, fashion as art. It is hard to imagine a woman today wearing a Poiret, a Paquin or a Patou. Dresses by these well-known designers and fashion innovators are marked by the stigma of fashion: they were created with the notion that they would not be used the following season or the following year, when they would in any case have lost their magic. Fortuny's, by contrast, are timeless clothes. Their beauty lies in the elegant simplicity, the perfect cut, the quality of the material and the sensuality of the colours. All these elements, perfectly integrated, make a Fortuny garment a work of art (Fortuny, 119).

Dressing women outside the very fluctuations of time which will make Princesse Verdurin's reception at the end of Time Regained such a gerontic hell, Fortuny placed them in the zone of Proust's sublimity, that funny wormhole connecting the present of the madeleine to the past of Aunt Léonie, the today of the uneven steps of the Guermantes' courtyard to the yesterday of the baptistery of St. Mark's. Two photographs of Peggy Guggenheim make the case for Fortuny's extratemporality: one taken as a young woman, the other as one of the time-eroded bodies the Narrator would so despise, in each she wears an identical Fortuny. "At the end of her life she still wore the Fortuny dress she had in her youth" (Fortuny, 198-199). Time has ravaged her face and body, yet the Fortuny, miraculous, has survived the years unscathed. The Princesse de Nassau, her one foot in the grave, M. d'Argencourt, at the end of his life an old beggar, M. de Cambremer, his face disfigured by anthrax scars, Oriane de Guermantes, her body a condensed bar of nougat, enter the Narrator's "peepshow of the years" (965) along with Peggy, while Fortuny gowns, inhabiting a different temporality entirely, flutter in the warm breeze of perennial youth.

[19] Layering "Knossos" scarf, sari or wrap on pleated "Delphos" dress, Fortuny set up surface complexities reminiscent of Odette's anachronistic pastiches or Albertine's pastel sleeves hidden away beneath her grey coat. Furthermore, his creations spoke to Proust's concerns about the "inner" and the "outer"; as items which created an aura of comfort and déshabillement-during the "doubly crepuscular drive," for example, Albertine refuses to see Mme Verdurin on the grounds that she is improperly dressed to pay a call-Fortuny's gowns invoked both architectures of interiority (a Fortuny is appropriate to some rooms of a house, but not others) and the very psychology of interiority with which Proust, in his vigilance of Albertine's slumbers, has throughout The Captive struggled. Fortuny's pleats, [27] irregular and unreproducible, invoked the irregularities and "temporal illusions" of Proust's own version of "spacetime," the uneven crinkling or furrowing of which has produced so many of A la recherché's textures. Like the kimono Albertine leaves out while she sleeps, the letter it contains beckoning to the Narrator to open it and assuage his erratic fears, the Fortuny gown with its patented pleats, Venetian beads and stencilwork simultaneously reveals and conceals-the vestimentary analogue to the hysterical symptom, or at least to the "dual" structure of the Narrator's jealousy, his oscillation between the two pulsations of paranoia and indifference? "Oriental" in the truest sense of the word as Proust has continually used it, the Fortuny gown promises an Open Sesame, while at the same time preventing access to the world or worlds just out of reach.

Mme de Saint-Euverte: The Abject Gives Birth to Time-in Fuchsia!

[20] It is here, with the dazzling flame-red gown of Mme de Saint-Euverte at the Princesse's reception, that the Proustian circuit must end-at least as far as specific fashions or Barthesian "events" are concerned; by extension, it is here at this particular fashion node that Proustian glamour involutes to reveal an interior, a lining of the many things that "Post-Proustian glamour" can mean. The gown of Mme de Saint-Euverte, née La Rochefoucauld, is lined with the future, with whatever it is that lies in wait on the flipside of an Open Sesame (from Euverte to ouverte)-in this it differs from Albertine's Fortuny, which, lined with a Tiepolo pink which may or may not have matched the pink of her nose, does not carry us beyond the dimensionalities of the text as does the cosmic chic of Mme de Saint-Euverte who, as she mysteriously and supinely reclines on her sofa in a forgotten room of the Guermantes', either to give birth to spacetime or simply to savor a sonata, spontaneously combusts in a pre- and post-historic fire. Lying on her chaise longue, a piece of furniture at once linear and curved and situated at orthogonals to the wall, a cradle which also functions the metaphysical "squared circle," Mme de Saint-Euverte combines past and future in a present of pure incandescence. Her Empire dress, more brilliant and rubescent than any fuchsia, [28] is nacreous; beneath its surface lie submerged "emblems and flowers...imprinted in some distant past." Like most fashion surfaces throughout the text, Mme de Saint-Euverte's complicates the concept of flatness; her gown, mother-of-pearl like the lining of an oyster, that great transmogrifier of the abject, contains within its surface glimmers of another surface, another world. The world of color "deconcealed" by Albertine when she removes her grey coat and her puffed pastel sleeves are liberated, echoes the lost world of the submerged flora and fauna contained by Mme de Saint-Euverte's dress, as do the chronologically mixed surfaces of Odette.

Acid and Basic Fuchsin:
Mme de Saint-Euverte's true colors (www.biosite.dk)

[21] Like the pearl coated with nacre, Mme de Saint-Euverte reverses polarities such that the negativity and contempt evoked by the name of her great aunt Saint-Euverte turn to glamour: "She could not know for that for me she was giving birth to a new efflorescence of the name Saint-Euverte, which recurring thus after so long an interval marked both the distance traveled by time and its continuity" (Time Regained, 1079). Like the Narrator, whose own continuity, the fact that, despite his many ontological changes, he has never for a moment ceased existing, surprises him, Mme de Saint-Euverte is surprising by virtue of her continuity: broaching the radical discontinuity of the many existences of the Saint-Euverte name as it has existed in time, this new paragon of chic unifies the concept "Saint-Euverte" while simultaneously demonstrating the ontological trail or furrow it has left. At the reception at the Princesse's in Cities of the Plain, we see Mme de Saint-Euverte desperately recruiting for her garden-party, her highest aspiration being to secure the presence of Oriane-and we see Oriane viciously and elegantly reject her: "'Well, the fact is that I shan't be in Paris,' the Duchess answered Colonel de Forberville. 'I must tell you (though I ought to be ashamed to confess such a thing) that I have lived all these years without seeing the stained-glass windows at Montefort-l'Amauray, but there it is. And so, to make amends for my shameful ignorance, I decided that I would go and see them tomorrow'" (709). It is from this position that the current Mme de Saint-Euverte, in some advanced stage of parturition on her chaise as her urn burns on its tripod, ascends; the purity of society, as demonstrated by the scene crystallizing around the Queen of Naples' fan at the Verdurin reception, is revealed to be a false homogeneity, as women like Gilberte Swann, Mme Verdurin and Mme de Saint-Euverte attain social heights hitherto unimaginable, and women like Berma sink into the mud. The name [29]"Saint-Euverte" emblematizes time's many heterogeneities, the tendency of time's many creatures to metempsychose into unforseeably alluring-or revolting-entities. As abject-sublime, Mme de Saint-Euverte achieves the impossible: she crowns the many discontinuities of the Saint-Euverte name with a new continuity, therein sparking the Narrator's imagination and resuscitating his flagging interest in the world, an interest which, according to cybernetician Silvan Tomkins, is what determines whether or not a creature will live or die (without interest, there is no engagement of the internal or external world, and consequently no life or will-to-anything). Proust will live: the lesson of the name "Saint-Euverte" will prove to him that his interest in the world is indeed capable of being elicited. Will we?

[22] With an eye to the future, to whatever stretch of spacetime it is that awaits me as I exit Proust, I see the rudiments of Post-Proustian glamour in the swatch of fabric with which this new arrival on the scene of genealogies has swathed herself, in its nacreousness and multidimensionality, in the fossils embedded in one of its geological levels, and first and foremost in its meta-fuchsia hue (fuchsia being a key part of the history of synthetic dyes, a color literally out of culture, not nature-a synthetic, preternatural purple [30] on a par with the telephone, airplane, stereoscope, and other of the text's technological objects of curiosity) . If a book can be a dress, than so too can the world that book seeks to engage. Reading the scene of Mme de Saint-Euverte giving birth to and cradling an infant Time, I turn to Einstein's geometrization of gravity in his famous "geodesic" of spacetime as some sort of analogue to both the cosmic costume of Mme de Saint-Euverte and the temporal and extratemporal structure of the dress that is the furrowed A la recherche du temps perdu. I read Einstein's diagram as a pattern for a dress, the dress for Post-Proustian scenes of glamour. Beyond the fuchsia and submerged animal/vegetable life of Mme de Saint-Euverte's retro-Empire gown (i.e., a gown eliciting Napoleonic splendor), beyond Albertine's luxuriously lined dressing-gown, her grey jacket and ballooning pastel sleeves, beyond the fan-that-is-also-a-museumpiece of the Queen of Naples, beyond the "blood-red blossom" that is the Duchesse en route to the evening in which her husband will "score" and she will pretend not to notice, there is the gown that is spacetime. Is it a Fortuny? Would Einstein, who makes his own fabric of space and time, wear it? The pleats of a Delphos uncrease to reveal a lost world, refold into spaciotemporal clusters in which the abject and the sublime are reconstituted into a post-apocalyptic, post-partum hologram of whatever chic it is that the name "Saint-Euverte" promises.



[1] The English version of Proust's texts upon which this essay relies is the Moncrieff/Kilmartin edition, which, unlike Moncrieff's "original" translation, is not full-on "purple" but rather soft mauve (or, in keeping with Mme de Saint-Euverte's world-rending dress, a watery, diaphanous fuchsia).

[2] It seems appropriate to make the leap from "Proustian Circuit" to "circuit party," especially given that it is the nature of each to go on for far too long-a temporal excess. See Michelangelo Signorile's Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life for a critique of the circuit party in light of contemporary queerness, as well as the 2002 film Circuit for its fictionalization. The operative metaphor here is perhaps a circuit party with Marcel Proust as DJ-what would it be like to attend such an event?

[3] See Husserl's Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness for an analogous account of the intricacies of consciousness and temporality. Like Husserl, Proust takes as his problem the ineluctable continuity of time, which, despite apparent discontinuities and rifts, achieves a sort of uncanny and oppressive seamlessness. As Deleuze will argue in Proust and Signs, it is memory itself which functions in the unification of time within the individual consciousness-memory in both its voluntary (for example, jealousy) and involuntary manifestations (for example, the stream of associations triggered by the ingestion of the tea-soaked madeleine).

[4] See Looking Glass Universe, 66, or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, 43.

[5] As a "technology of the self" or outgrowth of the impulse to practice the care of self, fashion prepares the creature for public display, while also setting up an interiority or fashion consciousness (see Foucault-Technologies of the Self and History of Sexuality Vol. 3: The Care of Self). Other variants on this theme include Dick Hebdige's argument in Subculture: the Meaning of Style that fashion constitutes a revolutionary semiotic surface, as well as Fred Davis' argument in Fashion, Culture, and Identity that, as a practice of identification, fashion is "ambivalence management" (25).

[6] Specifically, it is Barthes' observation in The Fashion System that there is no possibility of a poetics of clothing within the texts of fashion copy which has motivated my search for a poetics of clothing within Proust's "fashion copy." What kind of fashion writer is Marcel Proust? Which "written garments" does he produce for us? What is their poetic life?

[7] For a look at the ironies of fashion victimhood, see D&G's Spring/Summer 1998 "Fashion Police" designs, or Moschino's Spring/Summer 1999 "Consenting Part of the Fashion System" ad campaign.

[8] For an engaging look at the complexities of glamour as it functions vis-à-vis beauty, see Quentin Crisp's illuminating How to Have a Life Style. For Crisp, glamour is synthetic and performative: it is a product of work. Such a definition also makes possible the entry of the abject into the field of glamour, as demonstrated by his famous example of the homeless woman interrupted by police as she publicly changes into a third-hand evening gown for dinner.

[9] For Barthes, the obtuse is that which represents an excess of meaning (much as an obtuse angle represents an excess of geometric degrees). It can be correlated with his notorious punctum, which perforates the semantic field in and of its uncanniness (one example: the dirt-encrusted fingernails of Tristan Tzara). See "The Third Meaning" in the Responsibility of Forms, as well as #19 in Camera Lucida.

[10] "Fashion prescribes the ritual according to which the commodity fetish demands to be worshipped...It couples the living body to the inorganic world. To the living, it defends the rights of the corpse. The fetishism which thus succumbs to the sex appeal of the inorganic is its vital nerve" (Benjamin. The Arcades Project, 18). Such a quote can also be read against Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, with the fashion urge constituting a variety of Thanatos or a tendency toward the inorganic.

[11] In Barthes' The Fashion System, the detail is defined as the accessory: "We have seen that this genus contains varieties (handbag, gloves, coin purse, etc.), but that these varieties are not species. The accessory is a genus without species; its varieties are part of other genera; it is, of course, implicitly opposed to the piece ("Inventory of Genera," 105). Hence Proust, in giving the detail such power, rewrites "the fashion novel" such that that which proliferates nothing (a genus without species; a genus with variants belonging to other genera) gains precedence in organizing narrative spacetime. Is the detail a "bachelor"? A bachelor machine? See also "The Three Machines" in Deleuze's Proust and Signs.

[12] In terms of physics and its theories, see David Bohm's ideas about the explicit and the implicit as each gives way to the other ("David Bohm's Looking-Glass Map," in Looking Glass Universe). Existing at the implicit/explicit juncture, fashion performs the quasi-quantum work of "hinge" or point of inflection: it provides the occasion for the hidden to de-obscure itself-as well as for the scrutible to pass underground (see Fred Davis' discussion of "undercoding"). Chaos Theory (Gleick) and Fractal Theory (Mandelbrot) also provide operative models for holism.

[13] Here it seems appropriate to mention Buffalo Bill's famous dress patterns in Silence of the Lambs. Does the attentive Proustian reader become a spaciotemporal Buffalo Bill? As a point of de- or disidentification (see Richard Tithecott's Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer), the pattern-maker (Buffalo Bill) is intuitively rejected by the filmgoer, who cannot abide his gender dysphoria and his commitment to feminine activity (in a hellish form). Cutting up space and time in all their dimensionality (for Brian Greene, there may be as many as 26, most of which curl up into Calabi-Yau shapes), we make a pattern out of this ontological tissue.

[14] As such, she prefigures the philosophical scandals of James' and Rorty's pragmatisms. For them, as well as for her, truth is clearly based on a principle of efficiency: it is "what works." Abjuring a truth modeled on the metaphor of the mirror (see Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature for a full discussion of this development), she dismisses the "glassy essence" of truth, choosing instead to define truth in subjectivist and performative terms.

[15] Here I bring to mind the many instances of foot fetishism in Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis. Reading these case studies, one cannot help but conclude that for the Victorians, the foot fetish loomed large in the pantheon of paraphilias. Is the display of Oriane's foot one such moment? Reading the appearance of her foot as a variety of money-shot infuses the scene with a nastiness and prurience not out of sync with Proust's spirit of sexual deviance and its enticing glow.

[16] See Derrida's Politics of Friendship for the best contemporary analysis of the political ramifications of the system of alliances which constitutes friendship. Pairs such as Oriane/Swann, Narrator/Saint-Loup, or Queen of Naples/Charlus point to the need for a closer examination of the philosophical, political and aesthetic complexities of friendship-especially given the fact that they subsist in a pre-WWI world of ententes, axes, and other martial alliances based on the purity of the nation-state.

[17] This presents a new interpretation of Barthes' conclusion in Mythologies that one of the hallmarks of modern myth is that it replaces quality with quantity. Hence Oriane's ineffable quality, the light to which the Narrator returns again and again, finds mathematical and even economic elegance in its redescription as a quantity. It is if he had found the proper formula for converting Lacan's objet petit a into an integer.

[18] Another of the text's famous antinomies, such as Guermantes Way/Méséglise Way. A future project would be to examine Kant's resolution of antinomies with Proust's.

[19] Or: "Shoe of the evening, beautiful shoe." Or: "Any one for shoes?" See David Bourdon's Warhol for other excerpts from Warhol's and Pomeroy's series.

[20] Julia Kristeva makes the best use of the "purity" notion in her discussion of the concept of the abject in her Powers of Horror. Productive of the abject, purity demarcates the clean from the unclean, the hygienic from the insalubrious, and thus culminates in the cordoning off of the impure (cordon sanitaire). Applying this logic to the nation-state of the first World War makes fresh sense of events like the Dreyfus Affair.

[21] See Donna Haraway's critique of supersaturation in Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology for the basis of an analysis of Proustian chemistry. Whether or not crystallization is an organic process in Proust remains to be determined, as well as the metaphorical baggage which would inform such a determination.

[22] In Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet, it is Charlus' and Albertine's closets which constitute the text's supreme sexual spectacles. Yet perhaps the entirety of the text functions as "open secret" in which Proust's own closeting is converted into literary spectacle: along with Sedgwick, we too "giggle" (240).

[23] Operative analogues: Xena, Warrior Princess; one of the martial-amorous creatures populating Witig's Les Guérillères.

[24] In Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel The Leopard, modernity achieves its fullest expression with the dissipation of the objects of the reliquary; we pass from "end of the relics" to "End of all" as, through the outdated Princess Concetta, we experience the end of the depository of saintly objects (293). This is clearly Habermas' conception of modernism as that which eradicates all references to "the past," finding its foundational axioms in a present open to the future. Charlus is tied to a notion of the reliquary, and, like the Queen of Naples and other of the text's eminent pre-moderns, finds comfort in the religious object.

[25] Compare the Queen's fan with that of Lady Windermere in Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan or of Salomé in his Salomé. As an object or fashion fetish, it conceals, reveals, makes possible flirtation, and becomes the outward sign of deflowering. Unfortunately, we never see Naples' Queen put it to use: we are presented with all structure, and no event. In fact, the only event is one in which the fan's use value is revised such that it is not put to work in any utilitarian sense (the Queen does not use I to fan herself), but rather is put to work as an object which must be retrieved (the fan is used to rearticulate a latent social structure).

[26] In Michel de Certeau's Practice of Everyday Life, the consumer is not a passive dupe of the culture industry, but is rather an artist and producer in her or his own right. Hence Odette and Albertine become two of the text's artists, their practices becoming one model of the text's own mode of production. Furthermore, for Benjamin, the collector performs an important task, as it is the activity of collection which produces object-intimacy.

[27] After Fortuny, it is Issey Miyake who will stake so much of his career on the pleat. His Pleats Please stores offer the best example of Miyake's commitment to Proust's "furrow"; entering his space, we become suppliant in our asking of him that he please cover us with pleats. While Peggy Guggenheim most probably never uttered the phrase "Pleats, please," she certainly found her body swathed in a field of them-as did Albertine and Oriane.

[28] Interestingly enough, the chemical "fuchsin" used to produce the dye "fuchsia" has a number of uses, from histological and cytological stain to anti-fungal agent used in the treatment of human nail fungus. In addition, since one of the oldest methods of producing purple dye involved the use of mollusk shells, Mme de Saint-Euverte's connection to prior biological epochs seems absolutely jejune. Furthermore, the importance of fuchsin to the history of synthetic dyes cannot be underestimated-after mauveine, it is the next major aniline dye to be developed. Given that eventually France will lose the "War of the Reds" to Germany, the fact that France patents the first fuchsia in 1859 marks Mme de Saint-Euverte's palette as Francophilic (see Delamare's and Guineau's' Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments).

[29] Like Charlus, the Narrator compulsively names names; tying this to "the homosexual question" as Sedgwick does in Epistemology of the Closet leads us into the philosophical quagmires of outing, inning, and the mania for identifying the members of la race maudite. It also leads us to question the Narrator's status as label whore (see my Confessions of a D&G Label Whore in To the Quick #3).

[30] See Delamare and Guineau, 98-99.



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