Volume 7, Issue 18, Fall 2012
A Lover’s Lobster
Somatic Projection in Proust
This paper considers a minor if not fleeting detail from Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu which easily escapes noticeability though it is a signifier that reverberates with and, in fact, repeats the extremely well known epiphany of the Madeleine, though by way of an extremely muted parody that I doubt a reader would notice if he or she had not stopped to examine it. This detail concerns a lobster dismantled on Marcel's plate during lunch at the home of the Swanns. My argument is that the figure of the lobster is what psychologists call a "somatic projection," which in this case has a surreal effect, given that the lobster suddenly becomes a substitute for, say, a woman's body. Moreover, by way of a culinary issue concerning the preparation of lobsters in France and the types of lobsters
that are being prepared, the lobster improbably becomes an object that symbolically traverses sexual orientations, which is also a somatic projection of sorts. That the lobster is a fantasized sexual object whose monstrosity is constitutive of a sexual field divided by different orientations is a matter that this paper takes up. The paper ends with a few remarks about Salvador Dali's surrealist use of imagining the lobster as a fetish object for woman's sex. In various degrees, this paper is relevant to gay studies, object relations theory, the study of fantasy, surrealism in fiction, literature and the culinary, psychology and epistemology, visual art, and, of course, Proust studies.