“My thought is me: that is why I cannot stop. I exist because I think… and I can’t stop myself from thinking.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
Writing the Mind: Representing Consciousness from Proust to the Present explores how writers across the last hundred years have risen to the challenge of putting the workings of the conscious and unconscious mind on the page. Against the backdrop of a century of cultural and scientific development, the study examines the work of seven ground-breaking French and European authors: Marcel Proust, whose writing is the cornerstone of the modern psychological novel; Georges Bernanos and the Catholic novelists; André Breton and Surrealism; Jean-Paul Sartre and the existentialist novel; Samuel Beckett; Nathalie Sarraute; and, finally, bringing us into our own century, Marie Darrieussecq. Simon Kemp examines the inf luence of science, faith, and philosophy on these writers, and demonstrates how writers learn from or react against their predecessors or quarrel with their peers. Kemp’s elegant study also charts the rise and wane of Freudian inf luence on literature through the twentieth century, and the emergence of cognitive and neo-Darwinian ideas at the dawn of the twenty-first. In the work of these seven writers, we discover radically different understandings of how consciousness and the unconscious mind are constituted, which are the most salient characteristics of mental life, and even what it is that defines a mind at all.