ASSOCIATION: doctoriales 2014 – FEDERSPIEL

« Valeurs et enjeux d’une littérature polémique : jeux de langues et stratégies de l’indicible dans Lolita de Vladimir Nabokov et The Satanic Verses de Salman Rushdie »
Année d’inscription: Septembre 2008 – Soutenance: Novembre 2014
Thèse de doctorat en préparation sous la direction de Mme le Professeur Charlotte STURGESS – Université de Strasbourg, littérature anglaise.

The Sweet Game of Anaesthesia : a Selection of Nabokov’s Playful Conditioning Strategies in Lolita. 

The analogy between literature and games was dear to Nabokov, especially when it came to the realm of chess and its problems, which pervade the mechanics of many of his novels. The very principle of « game » involves, as the definition of the term has it, the notion of pleasure drawn from playful activity. Nabokov, who himself advocated the « tingle in the spine » (Lectures in Literature) and « aesthetic bliss » (On a book entitled Lolita), has a vision of literature as a game that should be pleasurable both to the writer and the reader. Each on their own, author and reader draw pleasure from the act of writing or making sense of what is written ; together, they sometimes frolic in the excitement of shared knowledge, or in the fun of playing hide-and-seek. At other times yet, they contend in solving conundrums that will leave the slower-minded participant a loser in the game.

Those games and other assimilated activities are not only diversions that take the reader’s mind off the topic he reads about, they are also a way to have the reader who is willing to play accept a new order. The reader who embarks on the game has to accept some rules and to project himself in an environment that obeys those rules. A novel such as Lolita, that takes the reader on a very subversive trip, has to teach him to correctly read the new world it offers, for fear of losing him. Proper teaching only guarantees that the reader will take his part in the game and will stop perceiving some subjects as offensive.

Lolita uses many rhetorical, literary or linguistic games that help set up a literary context in which taking offense will no longer be the most appealing option. In this paper, I will dwell essentially on the role of dialogism and poetry, as well as on some specific figures of speech. I will try and show how they are used to lull the reader’s attention, but also to condition his reactions, and finally how they prompt him to have his share in the buoyantly deviant potential of Lolita. Whenever it is relevant and helps conceive of a common treatment of polemical subjects, I will compare Nabokov’s strategies in Lolita with Rushdie’s in The Satanic Verses, the second object of my study.