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Yannicke Chupin

Abstract

Nabokov’s lecture on Proust reveals his marked interest in the French novelist’s unique sense of characterization. Nabokov first insists on the exclusively fictional nature of Proust’s characters, which is a point often debated. The first part of this chapter tries to clarify Nabokov’s position on the subject. Surprisingly ignoring the remarkable linguistic identity of Proust’s characters, Nabokov’s attention then exclusively focuses on the visual, varying and fragmentary perceptions to which Proust’s characters are submitted in the novel. The professor’s partial analysis, which relies on the use of a complete set of optical imagery, testifies to his strong interest in what he calls a ‘literature of the senses’ among which sight is crucial. ‘I do not think in any language. I think in images,’1 he once famously declared; and his lecture on Proust, which illuminates the prisms developed by Proust’s characters, also reveals his own bias as a novelist.

Series:

Roy Groen

Abstract

This is not a study of the relationship between Nabokov’s texts and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. However, whereas previous critics focused predominantly on stylistic and thematic silhouettes of Proust in Nabokov’s novels, this contribution seeks to focus more in particular on the distinctly Proustian reverberations that resound in some of the central aesthetic beliefs and opinions underlying Nabokov’s critical analyses in the Lectures on Literature. Closely comparing fragments from both authors, an effort is made here to lay bare not only the many ways in which the thoughts of these two giants of modern literature are interrelated, but also, and perhaps more importantly, where and how they subtly differ from one another.

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Gerard de Vries

Abstract

Somehow Nabokov selected Stevenson’s popular story together with James Joyce’s and Marcel Proust’s main novels, a choice that has puzzled some critics. Nabokov praises Stevenson’s style, the originality of his vision and the magic that he detects in Stevenson’s story. In his discussion, he appreciates aspects that deviate from Stevenson’s intentions. Surprisingly, he refrains from discussing the story’s literary genealogy, probably to emphasise its originality. It is argued in this contribution that the supernatural in Stevenson’s story probably goes a long way to explain Nabokov’s partiality.

Series:

Luc Herman

Abstract

In the lecture on Jane Austen, Nabokov’s negative judgments about structural aspects of Mansfield Park are clearly enhanced by the fact that Austen is a woman. What is more, Nabokov’s patronizing attitude toward female authors leads him to an interpretive mistake. When Austen’s protagonist Fanny condemns a play for its dangerous morality, Nabokov all too rapidly decides that Austen disapproves as well. As it happens, there is no reason at all why Fanny’s reaction (in free indirect discourse) should coincide with the author’s, but Nabokov is only too happy to let his image of the character overlap with that of the author. When discussing Austen’s famous irony, Nabokov describes one of her ironic sentences as ‘the dimpled sentence, a delicate ironic dimple in the author’s pale virgin cheek.’ As a pale virgin, occasionally capable of delicate ironic comment, Nabokov’s Austen embodies Fanny’s innocence and finesse, and so they simply must think the same about the potential performance of an allegedly scandalous play.

Series:

Ilse Logie

Abstract

In this article, I analyse Nabokov’s idiosyncratic interpretation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote as it appears from his posthumously published Lectures on Don Quixote. Unlike most other critics, Nabokov emphasises the cruelty of the novel. I also reflect on the influence of Cervantes’ novel on different aspects of Nabokov’s Lolita. Finally, I evaluate to what extent Nabokov applies his own views on reading to his own interpretation of Don Quixote. This is clearly not fully the case. My suggestion is that Nabokov’s reading of Cervantes’ novel was actually a preliminary step towards the rewriting of Don Quixote that resulted in Lolita.

Series:

Vivian Liska

Abstract

In his lecture on Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis,’ Vladimir Nabokov introduces his audience to his own views on beauty, his understanding of the relationship between reality and fantasy and his dismissal of symbolizing approaches to art in general and Kafka’s stories in particular. Commentators of Nabokov’s lecture have pointed out incongruities between these theoretical reflections and his actual reading of Kafka’s story and have accused Nabokov of a ‘lack of sensitivity’ in his discussion of crucial aspects of Kafka’s art. The contradictions in Nabokov’s lecture, the excessive quoting and paraphrasing of Kafka’s text and the narrow, radically formalist conclusion are indeed striking. However, rather than considering these aspects of Nabokov’s lecture as mere flaws, one can regard them as an effect of Nabokov’s unsettling encounter with the force of Kafka’s story.