Category Archives: Marcel Proust

Involuntary Autobiographical Memory – Marcel Proust

In his early 20th century book À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) French novelist Marcel Proust describes having an unexpected childhood memory provoked by “dipping a madeleine into a cup of tea” (Bradley, 2013).  This phenomenon is called an Involuntary Autobiographical Memory – a memory which is triggered by an everyday environmental cue.  These memories often just come to mind without even consciously trying to remember and are often quite positive.  The memories are sudden and can take one back to a certain moment in time (metaphorically speaking) within a few seconds.  Proust believed that these involuntary memories “were the only way of capturing the past” (Berntsen, p47, 2009).

With my project, I hope that the objects used within the piece will evoke involuntary memories within the viewer – although perhaps they won’t necessarily be of a positive nature.  However, I really like the idea of being transported back in time by an earlier memory and how time doesn’t seem to effect how vivid the memory is.  Also, it’s interesting how a visual cue, phrase, song or smell can remind someone of a memory which they may not have thought was lost.  I would be delighted if my work produced memories or thoughts of nostalgia within an audience member.


Berntsen, D. (2009). Involuntary autobiographical memories. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bradley, R. (2013). Involuntary autobiographical memories – Vol. 26, Part 3 ( March 2013). [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2014].