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Prog Brain Res. 2013;205:41-53. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63273-9.00003-4.

Forgetting the madeleine: Proust and the neurosciences.

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  • 1The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Electronic address: bray.49@osu.edu.

Abstract

Marcel Proust's famous madeleine experience, in which a man recalls his past through intense concentration after he tastes a cake dipped in tea, has been dubbed the "Proust Phenomenon" by researchers in the neurosciences. The passage in Proust's novel, however, has been systematically misread in the scientific literature due to the complexity and the ambiguity built into the text. A review of work by neuroscientists, popular science writers, and literature scholars suggests that the most productive interdisciplinary research occurs not where two disciplines converge (the madeleine as olfactory memory cue), but rather where they diverge (phenomenal description over quantitative analysis). This chapter argues that researchers in neuroscience and neuroaesthetics should forget the madeleine in Proust to investigate not only the other cognitive insights offered by Proust's vast novel, In Search of Lost Time, but also the ways in which Proust's novel seeks to bridge the distance between autobiographical experience and critical analysis.

KEYWORDS:

Proust; interdisciplinarity; madeleine; memory; neuroscience

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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