Spoiled Distinctions investigates crises of evaluation in twentieth-century France. Taking Marcel Proust as its central figure, the book theorizes the disorienting force of everyday aesthetic experience. In a series of surprising readings, Hannah Freed-Thall frees Proust from his reputation as the most refined of high modernists. The author of In Search of Lost Time appears here as a journalist and newspaper enthusiast, a literary ventriloquist and connoisseur of popular scandals, and a writer attentive to the unsophisticated phenomenology of the here and now.
The final chapters of the book consider the legacy of Proust's experiments with inestimable worth. Authors Francis Ponge, Nathalie Sarraute, and Yasmina Reza also explore the underside of cultural distinction. With Proust, they elaborate modernist variations on the beautiful and sublime--from nuance to the "whatever" and from the awkward to the sickly-sweet. Spoiled Distinctions thus revitalizes the critical discourse on aesthetics. Mapping the intersection of phenomenology, aesthetic theory, and the sociology of culture, the book reveals how enchanting the ordinary can be.