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Why do hosts vary so much in parasite burden, how does this variation translate to variation in host demographic rates and parasite transmission, and how does varied transmission intensity impact selection upon immune defence of individuals? The theoretical foundations of disease ecology provide predictions for the answers to these questions, yet testing such predictions with empirical data poses many challenges. We show how the long-term ecological and genetic study of the unmanaged Soay sheep of St Kilda has addressed fundamental questions in disease ecology, with longitudinal data on parasite burden, immune defence, condition, survival, and fecundity of >10,000 individuals. The rich individual-scale data are complemented by >30 years of data on sheep population dynamics and genetic diversity as well as parasite dynamics and diversity. Population-scale work has documented the range of parasite species present and the contribution of the most prevalent and virulent parasites to regulating sheep dynamics. Individual-scale work has identified drivers of variation in parasite burden and tested hypotheses about costs and benefits of defence in a quest to determine how natural selection has shaped immune function of the sheep.
At Proust's death, the sight of the notebooks containing À la recherche, standing together near their author's bed, reminded Jean Cocteau of the watches whose ticking continues on the wrists of soldiers slain on the battlefield. Ninety years after Proust's passing, the metronomic ticking continues through the pages he wrote and through the stream of works he still inspires. Books on Proust and the Recherche number in their thousands and the flow shows little sign of abating; crucially, though, as this chapter will show, as well as quantity, there is quality. Proust has a broad international readership inside and beyond the academy. In universities, his work is taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level, in parts or as a whole, in relation to cinema and the arts; and within modern languages, comparative literature and gender studies courses. Monographs, comparative critical studies, articles, translations and adaptations continue to appear and critics and practitioners from many disciplines are still drawn to the work, its themes and characters, its Narrator's ideas, the challenges and rewards of its rich and demanding textures. This chapter will consider the primary developments in the most recent phase of Proust criticism, from the publication of the second Bibliothèque de la Pléiade edition of the Recherche in 1987–9 to the present day.
What unique place might we allot to his work? Between philosophy, science, epic poetry, satire, memoirs and all hitherto recorded forms of the novel?
Readers of Proust are still asking these questions today, posed by the society painter Jacques-Émile Blanche in a memoir that appeared in 1928, the year after the publication of À la recherche du temps perdu was completed. Proust was dead only six years but the myth of the man was already alive and strong. It had been growing, in fact, since the time of Blanche's portrait of the author, in oils, in 1892, some thirty years before (see Fig. 1). The plurality of Proust's writing – prose that shifts effortlessly from cool logic to impassioned bluster, from the observational noting of the laboratory to spinning the fine and delicate thread of metaphor – invites multiple modes of interpretation, multiple frames of reference through which we might read. Such writing is singular, provocative, demanding. The chapters that follow offer a succession of approaches to individual aspects of this plurality; they provide spaces in which we might think about Proust, his work and the conditions of its creation: in its own way each chapter contributes an answer, or part of an answer to Blanche's question.