Maurice Couturier, Nabokov’s Eros and the Poetics of Desire, Palgrave Macmillan, June 2014

« Nabokov gained international fame with Lolita, a highly erotic and morally disturbing novel. Through its comprehensive study of the amorous and sexual behaviors of Nabokov’s characters this book shows how Eros, both as a clown or a pervert, contributes to the poetic excellence of his novels and accounts for the unfolding of the plots. »

ASSOCIATION : Présentation des membres

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – DEMATAGODA

Udith DEMATAGODA
University of Glasgow
Thesis Title: ‘The Loathsome Tint of Social Intent: Ideology and Aesthetics in the works of Vladimir Nabokov’
Enrolment year: 2010
Projected year of completion: 2014
Supervisors: Professor Laurence Davies, Dr. John Coyle, Dr. Andrei Rogatchevski 

 

Ideology, Epistemology, and the ‘Modernism of Underdevelopment’ in The Eye and Despair

Within past and recent criticism, it is a widely held assumption that Nabokov should be regarded as a direct descendant of the Russian Symbolist tradition. It is a critical assumption which ascribes to Nabokov an epistemology which has its roots in the transcendence of everyday reality, a metaphysical Idealism which, though ostensibly camouflaged, is purported to be consistent throughout the Nabokovian corpus and, perhaps most significantly, a very distinct historical subjectivity. With the publication of Vladimir Alexandrov’s Otherworld, this burgeoning critical tendency became ubiquitous, and continues to be the subject of varied research. Yet there are two important aspects of this assumption which have heretofore been overlooked and remain problematic; primarily whether such an assumption is entirely justified, and secondly the nature of its ideological significance. The often acerbic opposition of Symbolism and Formalism in early twentieth century Russian literature was tainted by class politics; it was, in essence, as equally ideological as it was aesthetic.

As John Burt Foster has proposed, behind the Nabokovian aesthetic there is a tension, an ‘almost paradoxical juxtaposition- the modernist urge to “make it new” recoiling into the past to become an art of personal memory.’[1]It is the contention of my thesis that his work of the émigré period up to and including The Gift involves a series of aesthetic vacillations and evolutions which were influenced by his engagement with a changing political and ideological landscape. Furthermore, these aesthetic developments also derive from an attempted negotiation between two contrasting strands of the Russian ‘Modernism of Underdevelopment’[2]- Symbolism and Formalism. In my paper, I shall attempt to illustrate how this negotiation manifests itself in two works written within two years of each other, the short novella The Eye (1930) and Despair (1932).

 

Bio: Udith Dematagoda graduated in 2008 with a MA (hons) in Comparative Literature and Slavonic Studies from The University of Glasgow, before taking a Masters degree in English from The University of Manchester in 2009. She completed a intensive diploma in Russian language at Glasgow, before embarking on her PhD research on Vladimir Nabokov in 2010. She has taught at the University of Glasgow from 2010-2012, and currently teach at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis as a Lecteur d’anglais. She has published on Vladimir Nabokov in publications such as the Slavonic and East European Review (SEER) and The Nabokov Online Journal (NOJ). She has presented papers at various universities in the UK and at Nabokov Readings conference at The St. Petersburg State University’s Vladimir Nabokov museum in Russia. She spent the summer of 2013 in New York conducting research at The Berg Collection of Modernist English and American Literature at The New York Public Library.

 



[1] John Burt Foster Jr, Nabokov’s Art of Memory and European Modernism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) p.23. Further references given in parenthesis.
[2] Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air (New York: Penguin, 1982), p.175.

RÉSONANCES ARTISTIQUES : Arts visuels – A Guide to Berlin EN

FR / EN

“A Guide to Berlin”

An exhibition by Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov (Germany)

inspired by Nabokov’s story « A Guide to Berlin »
a guide to berlin1

The exhibition was shown  from July 5 till July 29, 2013 at the Vladimir Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg.

It will be shown in the « salle Europe » at the MISHA in Strasbourg, France in the Spring 2014.

Salle Europe (ground floor MISHA)             April 29, 30, &  May 2, 5, 6 2014.      8h-19h.

MISHA (Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace)
Campus Esplanade
5 allée du Général Rouvillois, Strasbourg, France

Tram stop: OBSERVATOIRE

 “In Maria and Natalia Petschatnikov’s installation A Guide to Berlin, what at first appears to be a strikingly visual collage of heterogeneous motifs from a street scene—with trams, graffiti, pigeons, and the like—turns out to be also an exploration of the destabilizing effects of exile and loss. Taking their cue from their fellow Russian Vladimir Nabokov’s short text “A Guide to Berlin” from 1925, which playfully bypasses grandiose tourist sites in favor of icons of the humble and everyday—trams, pubs, street pipes—the artists create a reconfigurable installation that both pays homage to Nabokov’s icons and builds a new vocabulary of neglected markers of Berlin’s present. Nabokov, who lived in Berlin from 1922 to 1937 and wrote all his Russian novels here, was an “outsider” who paid attention to Berlin’s real “insiders”— things and places that are mostly overlooked. He might even be a passenger on one of the two large trams entering the exhibition space of A Guide to Berlin, which manage to seem friendly and ominous at the same time. The Petschatnikovs’ trams, wending their way out of the past and headed into an unknown future, remind us that we are all, natives and exiles alike, only in transit through this life. But their most brilliant—and Nabokovian—gesture is that the entire installation is a trompe l’oeil: the images, which appear to be drawn on the wall in charcoal, are actually made of tulle, sewn into large pieces that can be hung in various ensembles with more or less visual coherence depending on the site, thus subtly referencing the exile’s necessarily provisional relationship to his or her environment. In linking their tenancy as Russians in Berlin to their Petersburgian predecessor’s, the Petschatnikovs’ masterful delivery of visual delight invests ephemera with the eternal and asks us to reconsider our relationship to the world we encounter around us every day.” 

Donna Stonecipher
American poet, author of The Cosmopolitan among others. She lives in Berlin.

« A Guide to Berlin » exhibition by Maria and Natalia Petchatnikov transformed the first floor of the Nabokov House for a few summer weeks.  Tenderness towards the world around, the ability to appreciate and not take its beauty for granted is one of the prevailing themes of Nabokov’s poetry and prose of the 1920s. «Perceive the delicate rotation of the slightly tilted earth» – wrote Nabokov in “The University Poem”  (translated by Dmitri Nabokov). The short story « A Guide to Berlin » was written in those years, too. The artists did not attempt to create an authentic reconstruction of the Berlin of  Nabokov’s time but instead they recovered that intonation by visual means. Pigeons in a Berlin street, an approaching tram, graffiti on an invisible wall – the urban environment unfold around us is filled with Nabokov’s poetics. The exhibition lets the visitor to see contemporary Berlin through the eyes of a Nabokov’s literary character – a challenging task which the artists fully accomplished, in my opinion.
I very much hope that Maria and Natalia will be able to do further projects on Nabokov’s theme, all the more so since fate is guiding them to the most Nabokovian places of the world – St.Petersburg, the USA, France, Berlin – as if rearranging the same index cards that made up Nabokov’s text.

Tatiana Ponomareva
Director
Nabokov Museum, St. Petersburg

 

 

 

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – KOKINOVA

Katherina KOKINOVA
PhD in comparative literary studies, Department of Slavic Literature, Sofia University, Bulgaria
Dissertation Title: The self-reflection in the oeuvre of Vladimir Nabokov and Witold Gombrowicz
Enrollment date: 2012 Estimated year of completion: 2015
University adviser: Prof. Dr. Panayot Karagyozov

 
Training the Reader by Means of Self-reflection

This paper studies comparatively the self-reflective forewords and comments in parenthesis in Nabokov’s Despair and Gombrowicz’s Pornografia. There are at least two means of self-reflection used in the analysed novels: guidelines and doubles. Are the instructions a prerequisite for new discoveries or they rather suppress scientific passion, or maybe they are a stage in the process of training the reader? Do they facilitate the “author’s fondest dream to turn the reader into a spectator”? And how many times should one reread such a novel in order to “get nearer to reality” though not close enough? We may even observe the “implied reader” embodied, explicated in Despair. The other mean used in both novels in terms of self-reflection is the figure of the double, the alter ego. It raises questions such as: if Nabokov’s and Gombrowicz’s narrators are usually unreliable in regard to their perception about themselves and the world, in regard to their self-reflection, then can they be trusted in terms of guidelines? This study is an attempt to “get nearer” to what “the sailor has hidden” in terms of training the reader.

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – ROWBERRY

Simon ROWBERRY
University of Winchester
Dissertation title: “The Literary Web”
Supervisor: Dr Carolin Esser-Miles
Year of Registration: 2010           Date of completion: March 2014

 

Is the History of the Book the Future of Nabokov Studies?

The publication of The Original of Laura in 2009 marked a landmark in Nabokov studies, not for its aesthetic value, but rather for the material turn necessitated through the unfinished novel’s facsimile format. Nabokov’s authority has dominated critical interpretation of his works in the first few decades of intensive Nabokov studies since his death, as many critics have suggested that we must mine his works for the sanctioned solution of a literary puzzle. Such an approach ignores the presence of the many other agents of print who influence the composition of the printed text, most memorably visualised by Robert Darnton’s communication circuit of the book. Darnton evokes the pirates, rogue printers, bowdlerisers, reviewers and periodical publishers, not to mention the readers, who influence the ways in which a particular text is read and understood. A return to the material Nabokov – who wrote and revised on index cards, was greatly concerned with the cover art and typographical errors of the paperback editions of his works, and ensured that only his final drafts were preserved by the Library of Congress – reveals a more complex picture of the author than initially portrayed. Through re-assessing material evidence afforded to us in archives, reprints and extant manuscripts, as well as Nabokov’s obsession with agents of the book trade in Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada, the current project proposes that a book historical approach to Nabokov will expand the hermeneutic possibilities of analysing his oeuvre. 

 

 

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – SALIBA DIAS

Nathalia SALIBA DIAS
Title (estimated): Literary incest or the meaning of incest in Vladimir Nabokov’s work
Institution: Humboldt University (Berlin)         Name of the supervisor: Helga Schwalm
Registration: May 2013
Date of completion (estimated):  2016/2017

The meaning of incest in Nabokov’s work

The proposal of research is to analyse the works by Vladimir Nabokov, specifically three novels, which deal with incest – Lolita, Ada or Ardor: a family Chronicle and Look at the Harlequins! – in order to understand why Nabokov chose this controversial subject and what its meaning in his work. It is also intended to pursue the subject in the short stories and poems of the author, being able to explain how he dealt with incest through his career.

To precede this analysis, the present research is organized in three chapters: in the first part the meaning of incest in different literary periods will be examined; in the second, the sources of Nabokov’s late flowering use of incest and, than, to present an interpretation of incest in Nabokov’s work.

Amid Nabokov’s work it is only in Ada or Ardor (1969) that incest is a major subject. In Lolita (1955) it appears only indirectly or disguised and in Look at Harlequins (1977) it will be incorporated as a retrospective of the author’s favorite themes.

The theory is, that incest rises in the late work of Nabokov as a creative incestuous relationship between many generations of writers and styles. Nabokov traces the evolution of the theme in the European Literature and intercourses them in a creative process, as a reworking of a tradition, a literary incest.

In this context, the meaning of incestuous behavior – which is usually, associated with fear, in the Gothic tradition or, with rebellion and alienation in the romantic approach – shifts to a new light. Now incest concerns the process of writing, the literary inheritance of a tradition and the creative voice.  It is a new Nabokovian ripple, only possible in the 20th century within the metafictional writing.
Bibliographical References

ALDRIDGE, Alfred Owen. The meaning of incest from Hutcheson to Gibbon. In: Ethics, V.61, No. 4. Chicago. 1951. pp. 309-313.

ARIÈS, Philippe. Centuries of childhood: a social history of family life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

BOYD, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: American Years. New Jersey: Princenton University, 1990.

BOYD, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: Russian Years. New Jersey: Princenton University, 1991.

BIXLER, RAY. The multiple meaning of incest. The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 19, No. 2 (May, 1983), pp. 197-201

BOLINGBROKE, Henry St. John, Lord Viscount. The Works of the late right Honourable Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke with the Life of Lord Bolingbroke. London, 1809. Vol. VII. p. 496.

DENBO, J. Seth. Speaking Relatively: a History of Incest and the Family in the Eighteenth-Century England.  Ph.D. Thesis Warwick – Department of History. September 2011.

FREUD, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York: WW Norton Company, 1989.

FOUCAULT, Michael. History of Sexuality. Volume I: An introduction. New York: Hurley, 1978. p. 106.

FINNEY, Gail. Self-reflexive siblings: Incest as narcissism in Tieck, Wagner and Thomas Mann. The German Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Mar., 1983), pp. 243-256.

JOHNSON, Barton. The Labyrinth of incest in Nabokov’s Ada In: Comparative Literature. Vol. 38. No. 3, 1986. pp.224 – 255.

JULIAR , Michael. Vladimir Nabokov: a Descriptive Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1986.

LÉVI-STRAUSS, Claude. The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.

MASON, Bobbie Ann. Nabokov’s Garden: A Guide to Ada. Ardis: 1974.

MCCRACKEN, Timothy. Lolita talks back: giving voice to the object. He said, she says: An rsvp to the Male Text. London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. 128-42.

NABOKOV, Vladimir. Ada or Ardor: a Family Chronicle. New York: Penguin, 2008.

_______. Nabokov’s Butterflies. Ed. An. BOYD, Brian. PYLE, Robert Michael. Boston: Beacon Press. 2000.

_______. The Annotated Lolita. New York: Penguin, 2000.

_______. The Gift. New York: Penguin, 1980.

_______. Look at the Harlequins. New York: Vintage International, 1990.

_______. Strong Opinions. New York: Vintage International, 1990.

NAGLE, Betty Rose. Byblis and Myrrha: Two Incest Narratives in the « Metamorphoses ». The classical association of the middle west and south. The Classical Journal, Vol. 78, No. 4 (Apr. – May, 1983), pp. 301-315.

NESTERUK, Peter. Referentiality and transgression: representation of incest and child sexual abuse in American literature of the twentieth century. Nottingham University. P.h.D Thesis. October, 1994.

OLSEN, Lance. Lolita: A Janus Text. New York: Twayne Publishers,1995.

PERRY, Ruth. Incest as the Meaning of the Gothic Novel In: English century. Vol.39. No. 3, 1998. p. 261 – 277.

PIPER, Ellen. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: a casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

PLATO. Symposium. New York: Penguin books, 1999.

POLLAK, Ellen. Incest and the English novel: 1684 – 1814. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2003.

RANK, OTTO. Das inzest-motif und in dichtung und saga: Gründzuge einer psychologie des dichterischen Schaffens. Verlag Classic Edition, 2010.

RICHARDSON, Alan. The dangers of sympathy: sibling Incest in the English Romantic Poetry In: Studies in English Literature, 1500 – 1900, Vol. 25. No. 4, Nineteenth Century. pp. 737 – 754.

SCHWALM, Helga. Dekonstruktion im Roman : erzähltechnische Verfahren und Selbstreflexion in den Romanen von Vladimir Nabokov und Samuel Beckett. Heidelberg : Winter, 1991.

SHELTON, Jen. Issy’s Footnote: Disruptive Narrative and the Discursive Structure of Incest in « Finnegan Wake ». ELH, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 203-221. John Hopkins University press.

STANSBURY, Heather Lyn. Romantic incest: gender, desire and defiance. Dissertation of Doctor on Philosophy. University of Washington, 2008.

WAUGH, Patricia. Metafiction: the theory and practice of self-conscious fiction. New York: Rutledge, 2000. 

RAPF, Joan E. The Byronic heroine: incest and creative process. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 21, No. 4, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1981), Rice University. pp. 637-645.

THORSLEV, Peter L. Incest as a romantic symbol. In: Comparative Studies. v.2 No.1. Penn State University Press, 1965. pp. 41 -58.

KENNER, Hugh. Ulysses. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1987.

 

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – MIKOLA

Gyöngyi MIKOLA
Title of PhD. Thesis: Narratives of Desire in Nabokov’s Russian Novels
University of Szeged (Hungary), Department of Russian Literature
Name of supervisor: Prof. Dr. Katalin Szőke
Year of registration: 2012.
Estimated date of completion of thesis: September 2015.

„AS WATER TO OPHELIA”
(Problem of Aesthetical Redemption in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and The Gift)

  Nabokov wrote his masterpiece Invitation to a Beheading interrupting his own work, writing another novel, The Gift. My hipothesis is that Invitation to a Beheading can be considered as a solution of a  problem or elaboration of an idea, which was arosed during the creation of the other, the „main” book.

  In my contribution I analyze  the water-motifs of the Invitation and The Gift with close reading method to demonstrate  the relationship of Nabokovian reader and/or writer heroes to the art of literature, and, besides, realisation of self-mimetic, self-reflective potentialities of literature as specific liquid mirror  in these novels.

  I collate Niven Kumar’s mimetopia-conception  with the utopian viewpoints in Russian aesthetic tradition (first of all with the materialist utopia of Nabokovian hero, Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s and the „real” Chernyshevsky’s, of course) and study the parallels and differences between the so called ‘zhiznyetvortsestvo’, the aesthetic utopia of Russian symbolist movement with the meaning of creative act for Nabokovian writer/reader heroes. At that point I will briefly analyze the future-oriented ornamental prose and poetics of transparency in Andrei Bely’s Petersburg to highlight some important  similarities of „liquid” fiction formatting metods in  Nabokovian prose.

  At the end I examine the relevance of Nietzschean concept of aesthetic redemption in connection with Nabokovian novels, and I suggest a special, synchronous, simultaneous idea of this philosophical term: in my opinion Nabokovian aesthetic redemption is confined only to the duration of writing or reading. But this real, empirical time of literary process works as a gap, transforms to a secret passage, a way through to the unknown, timeless outside.

ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – KITZINGER

Chloë KITZINGER
PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of California, Berkeley
Enrolled Fall 2009; estimated date of completion Spring 2015
Title of dissertation: “The Problematic Individual”: The Lives of Characters in Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
Supervisors: Irina Paperno (chair, Slavic), Eric Naiman (Slavic), Dorothy Hale(English) 

 “A Variety of Forms”: Reading Character in Nabokov

My project, an extension of my broader interest in character and the novel form, explores Nabokov’s approach to character in the novel. Nabokov’s style poses a curious dilemma: while a wealth of concrete descriptive detail tempts readers to immerse themselves in the fictional worlds of his novels, the flamboyance of their formal organization offers an equally tempting view from above or outside the frame. One of the many problems this hybrid form presents is the status of Nabokov’s characters. As a reader and teacher, Nabokov repeatedly dismissed the “lowly kind of” imagination that prompts novel-readers to identify themselves with particular heroes (“Good Readers and Good Writers,” 4). This dismissal mirrors what has been called a “pronouncedly anti-polyphonic feature” in Nabokov’s own novels (Tammi, Problems of Nabokov’s Poetics, 100), a leaning toward a hieroglyphic rather than a moral view of the literary “character.” From the vivid but ephemeral interlocutors – some of them ghosts – who pass through the mind of the fictional author Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev in The Gift (1938/1963), to the personified vegetables encircling Hugh Person, the weirdly abstract hero of Transparent Things (1972), the figural characters of Nabokov’s novels are both arresting in themselves, and pointedly instrumental. My project aims to illuminate the sometimes-troubled place of the embodied human figure in Nabokov – the figures of the characters, their occasionally spectral narrators, and (eventually) their implied author and readers. Working outward from the suggestion, in Transparent Things, that “human life can be compared to a person dancing in a variety of forms around his own self” (92), I argue that the function of figural character in Nabokov’s novels is intimately connected with the project of making a central, private consciousness apprehensible to an external sensory world. I concentrate on Lolita (1955) and Pnin (1955, pub. 1957) as telling examples, but expand my conclusions to the level of what might be called Nabokov’s theory of character, evidenced both in his own novels, and his approach to reading the works of the “good writers” of the 19th and 20th century. My work thus attempts to place Nabokov in a longer tradition of tension between character and form in the novel, examining him as a successor to and reader of Dickens, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, and reflecting on his (post-)modernist response to the problems of character their novels pose.

Works Cited:

Nabokov, V. “Good Readers and Good Writers.” In Lectures on Literature. Ed. F. Bowers. San Diego, New York, London: Harvest, 1980. 1-7.

——— Transparent Things. New York: Vintage Books, 1989 [1972].

P. Tammi. Problems of Nabokov’s Poetics: A Narratological Analysis. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1985.