This contribution explores the concept of the unconscious as articulated by Proust in his À la recherche du temps perdu (Proust ([1913–1927] 1998–1999) and in a series of documents and texts that preceded it. It aims at understanding whether and to what extent Proust can be placed in a line of French thought that begins with the work of Maine de Biran and culminates in the reception in the second half of the nineteenth century of Biranism by French alienists: doctors specialized in the study of mental alienation. This type of interpretation of Biran’s doctrine is attuned to the increasing attention which, at the time of Proust’s education, was given to the unconscious and to the idea that, alongside the conscious self, there is an unconscious self, understood as a secondary personality that can manifest itself in the life of the individual in both normal and pathological ways. Following the interpretative path pursued in Piazza (1997, 2017), Bizub (2006), and Fraisse (2013), this article takes into account both Proust’s secondary and university education and his familiarity with experimental psychology, to which he was introduced by his father.

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