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I’m interested in reading this short text in relation to what I feel has been a silent interlocutor for this course in general: Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, particularly Swann’s Way. Most obviously, Proust’s novel deals closely with habit and repetition in temporality and memory, the vibrancy of things as both material and discursive/signifying (the madeleine, for example), and the gap between the moment of writing and the experience of which one is writing that seems to dissolve with the act of reading. In Sedgwick’s The Weather in Proust, she argues for a kind of localized mysticism of the everyday not dissimilar from our reading of Spinoza’s writing on God and nature. I think Robertson is picking up on this (she’s sure to have read both Sedgwick and Proust) when she writes of the weather as both ornamental and as “the vestibule to something fountaining newly and crucially and yet indiscernibly beyond” (60). She also writes of the days as “godlets swagging our bliss and ignorance” and weather as “boredom utopic” (60). There is an interesting combination of the quotidian and sacred that speaks both to Sedgwick’s reading of Proust and his own investment in describing what is repeated daily (family walks, waking, his mother’s goodnight kiss) but retains an agency and power that is both endlessly evasive and engrossing.

So when Robertson writes, “The weather is a stretchy, elaborate, delicate trapeze, an abstract and intact conveyance to the genuine future, which is also now. Mount its silky rope in ancient makeup and polished muscle to know the idea of tempo as real” (61), it’s not a stretch to read this passage in relation to Proust’s famous waking scene at the beginning of Swann’s Way:

[…] when I awoke in the middle of the night, not knowing where I was, I could not even be sure at first who I was […] but then the memory—not yet of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived and might now very possibly be—would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being, from which I could never have escaped myself […] (Modern Library 2003, 4-5).

There is a lot to dissect in these passages—the spatialization of lifting oneself up into the present moment in contrast to the aerial performance of the trapeze as that which swings in different directions, for example—but most generally, it’s interesting that Robertson replaces memory with the weather. For Proust, the body has its own physical memory that repeatedly situates itself in relation to a space. This is how his narrator can “piece together the original components of my ego” (5). But this assumes a state of being as non-being, preceding the ego, that is comprised of the act of assembling or gathering what is disparate, shifting, and unknown, unto something solid, presentable, and cognizable. By not knowing where he is, Proust’s narrator cannot know who (or even what or that) he is. Robertson suggests that rather than thinking of memory as that which collects and solidifies, we can rethink it as that which allows for expansion, constant motion, and limited or ambiguous taxonomies of the self. If memory is what makes Proust’s narrator human every morning, what kind of being is constructed by lifting oneself up by the weather?

-Claire

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