Writing the Mind : Representing Consciousness from Proust to the Present book cover
1st Edition

Writing the Mind
Representing Consciousness from Proust to the Present

ISBN 9781138717053
Published October 6, 2017 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

"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 Darrieussecq explores the works of seven ground-breaking thinkers and novelists of recent history to compare and contrast the varying representations of the conscious and the unconscious mind. Grounding his study in the writings of philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Marcel Proust, Simon Kemp explores the non-literary influences of science, faith and philosophy as presented in their works, demonstrates how writers learn from and sometimes deviate from preceding generations, and how they agree or disagree with their peers. Kemp’s elegant study also charts the rise and wane of Freudian influence 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.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Self / Marcel Proust

Chapter Two: Soul / Georges Bernanos and the Catholic Novelists

Chapter Three: Subject / André Breton

Chapter Four: Being-for-itself / Jean-Paul Sartre

Chapter Five: Spiral / Samuel Beckett

Chapter Six: Tropism / Nathalie Sarraute

Chapter Seven: Brain/ Marie Darrieussecq’s Bref séjour chez les vivants (A Brief Stay with the Living)


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Simon Kemp is Associate Professor of French at Sommerville College, Oxford.


"Kemp’s study of the mind in the modern European novel is a skilful and elegant book which will be required reading for anyone interested not only in how literature explores inner worlds, but in what these explorations tell us about conceptions of the mind more generally. The book provides a sharply intelligent account of competing theories yet is not theory-driven, preferring instead to consider how ideas about consciousness at a given moment in history stack up against the complexities of inner worlds as writers portray them." -- Professor Shirley Jordan, Queen Mary University of London