2024 Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Humanities

Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Humanities

Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Humanities

Bella Sophia Baldini 

Bella Baldini

Swann’s Way: Marcel Proust’s Sanctuary of Remembrance 

View Bella's project online

in TUScholarShare, Temple University’s institutional repository

My project is a literary analysis of Marcel Proust’s canonic text Swann’s Way that tackles how an artist’s understanding of their inner self can be both in tune with and at odds with the world around them. Much of my analysis focuses on unraveling how an artist attempts to remember their own past, and how this proves to be inseparably linked to specific objects – all of which Proust uncovers and complicates in his meditation on how memory functions. I worked to integrate my semester-long research on linguistics, architecture, aesthetics, and sociological theories on class to further explore how Proust’s philosophy on art and memory takes place within a tumultuous relationship between the social world and the interior mind.   

What is your major and expected year of graduation?

Major: English. Graduated December 2023 

What inspired you to pursue your project? 

Falling in love with Proust’s words and the novel itself was the first step that propelled me to research more on his life and work. The immersive experience of reading this text was then only enhanced further in my experiences in the classroom and the library, notably my discussions with my professor, Dr. Priya Joshi. The act of reading, but even more so, attempting to articulate the complex ideas at play in this text with my mentor and peers, really inspired me during my research and bolstered my passion for the project over the course of the semester.   

What does winning this award mean to you?  

The Livingstone Award is an incredible honor. Having recently graduated and still in search of the next step of my journey, this award came to me as a special reminder of the lessons and resources I gained at Temple in class and in research. This award prompted me to re-examine my project, which I am very proud of, but also to reflect more broadly on my intellectual development in academia over the years. As a writer and researcher, it is humbling and thrilling to realize that my work is being read and recognized by esteemed educators. I am so appreciative to receive this award; it is deeply validating, especially for this specific project that was without a doubt the most invigorating academic endeavor I embarked on while at Temple.   

How did the Libraries support your research?

Charles Library was always a sanctuary for me while studying at Temple, and in this specific research project the Libraries became that and more. Whether it was perusing the stacks, examining the sources from the BookBot, or sifting through the seemingly limitless academic articles and encyclopedias digitally, the experience of researching helped me filter a very expansive topic and find my niche within it. I ended up encountering indispensable sources from each of these facets of the Libraries’ capabilities. I also vividly remember consulting with a few librarians, as well as my professor, Dr. Joshi, on specific sources I gained from the Libraries that would then aid me in the task of assembling numerous moving parts and putting it on paper in my own words. The Libraries helped me find various academic conversations on Proust and led me towards feeling confident enough to place my ideas in conversation with them. 

Writing about the French novelist Marcel Proust became especially urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic when it seemed that all memories of the past, all relationships in the present, and all anticipations of a future had vanished beyond recall.  In a timely and brilliantly crafted essay, Bella Sophia Baldini shows how Proust’s Swann’s Way (1913) offers a “Sanctuary of Remembrance” (the subtitle of her prize-winning submission) insistent on retrieving a lost time.  Bella’s perceptive research vividly reveals how Proust’s novel cycle captures a land-owning bourgeoisie in its twilight years; a settled French village turning its back on an implacable modernity; and a landscape of medieval church steeples and hawthorn bushes where an entire community’s history is embedded.   

Like Proust, whose method roved restlessly across memories, places, and things (the madeleine!) in order to reclaim the past and envision a future, Bella’s research skillfully weaves architectural analyses by the Victorian critic, John Ruskin; biography by Edmund White; and sociology by Walter Benjamin.   

Ostensibly about Proust, Bella’s submission is so much more:  it’s about how everyday experiences redeem individuals, how private histories resonate with public ones, and how memory is both a ritual and a duty that humanists perform for their cultures.  In naming Bella Baldini winner of the 2023-2024 Livingstone Prize for Research in the Humanities, Temple honors a most gifted writer.   

Priya Joshi, Professor, College of Liberal Arts