Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



Indira Tatiana Cruz

Née en 1975 à Bogota en Colombie, Tatiana Cruz a suivi une formation en Arts plastiques et Sciences de l’art d’abord en Colombie, puis à Paris, où elle vit et travaille. Artiste et commissaire d’exposition, elle s’empare, dans sa pratique artistique, du médium photographique, de l’art vidéo, ainsi que de la performance. A travers ces médias, son oeuvre développe à la fois une sensibilité poétique, liée aux équilibres précaires qui régissent le quotidien commun à tout être humain, et une réaction violente, parfois extrême, à l’actualité présente. Dans les deux cas, l’artiste demande à son spectateur une attention particulière : que ce soit pour l’inactivité volontaire de certaines performances, pour les changements subtils dans certaines vidéos, ou pour la crudité de certaines images dont elle s’empare parfois physiquement.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013


 
PERHONEN, Mikko – Helskinki, Finland
Master and Disciple: Nabokov Teaches Flaubert

    In this paper I propose to (re)discover Vladimir Nabokov’s lecture on a French masterpiece, Madame Bovary, which evidences a peculiar master/disciple relationship between the two novelists. Drawing inspiration from Borges’ famous statement that writers create their precursors, I will show how Flaubert is endowed with the status both of a creator and a creature within the frame of Nabokov’s lecture.
    “We shall discuss Madame Bovary as Flaubert intended it to be discussed,” writes Nabokov in his lecture. Part of this paper will follow through the assumptions behind this statement, whilst also reflecting upon the many paradoxes in which Nabokov, as reader and writer, places himself by dint of this apparently specular relationship with his peer. Among these paradoxes, special attention will be given to Nabokov’s view of Flaubert’s heroine. In order to broaden our perspective on the subject, we will compare this view with other writers’s interpretations, before broaching upon other female figures created by Nabokov.
    This discussion also springs from another master/disciple relationship, that between Myra Dickman Orth and Vladimir Nabokov, traces of which are visible thanks to the Berg collection of the New York Library, where part of Vladimir Nabokov’s manuscripts may be found, along with some enlightening material donated by Ms Orth, a former student of Cornell University, who during the academic year of 1954-55 had taken Nabokov’s course on ‘Masters of European Fiction’. Among the donated belongings are her painstaking notes to his lecture on Madame Bovary, which closely mirror the teacher’s own notes but which also reveal aspects of her master’s lecture which are absent from the published version and which thus shed new light onto Nabokov’s stance as both reader and writer.

 
Mikko Perhonen  wrote a doctoral thesis at Helsinki University on writers teaching French literature. His special interest is in 19th century European writers, among which Emile Zola, Dostoievksi and Chateaubriand, and, more recently, diasporic literature. He has also produced screenplays for the Alliance Française aiming at introducing French literature to foreigners. He is currently writing a book on the cultural relationship between French, Russian and Finnish writers in exile.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013


 

Alexandra Loewe

Artiste multimédia (dessin, sculpture, vidéo, photographie, œuvres interactives), Alexandra Loewe nous mène dans les contrées d’un langage dyadique où le conscient et l’inconscient, le corps incarné et l’esprit, le temps linéaire et l’aléatoire se rencontrent. En 2008, elle contribue au colloque Kaleidoslopic Nabokov en créant un corpus d’oeuvres : Nabokov Soul, qui portraitise l’âme métaphorique de l’auteur au cœur d’une vidéo. Celle-ci donne naissance à Kaleidoscopic Nabokov : Nabokov Chrysalis, une série de dessins de chrysalides de papillons. Enfin, l’éclosion se fait avec Kaleidoscopic Nabokov : Nabokov Characters, série de dessins de divers personnages nabokoviens en devenir, métaphore de ce que la lecture a à offrir, à savoir des traits demeurant informes dans la perception visuelle d’un personnage de roman. Pour la Nuit Nabokov, elle collabore avec une classe bilingue du Lycée Jean Sturm étudiant Lolita et produit une vidéo « Question-Air » où les élèves s’incarnent en Lolita et lui donnent une voix.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



ZHULINA, Alisa – Harvard University, USA / Ecole Normale Supérieure, France
Le Feu pâle  de l’échange entre Vladimir Nabokov et Alain Robbe-Grillet

    Peu d’écrivains contemporains de Vladimir Nabokov ont gagné son respect. Cependant Nabokov a appelé Alain Robbe-Grillet le plus grand auteur vivant de la langue française. Cette admiration était réciproque. Robbe-Grillet a déclaré qu’il sentait une grande parenté avec Nabokov, “l’auteur de Lolita, mais plus encore celui de Feu pâle, qui est un roman extraordinaire” (Le Monde, 1967). En plus, Robbe-Grillet a participé à l’une des premières interviews françaises de Nabokov en 1959.
    Les deux n’étaient pas toujours d’accord sur les questions de psychologie ou à propos du Nouveau Roman dont Robbe-Grillet était le théoricien. Bien que ce dernier ait appelé Nabokov « un grand auteur du Nouveau Roman» (The Paris Review, 1986), Nabokov était étranger à tout esprit « de groupe » et rejetait les étiquettes du « Nouveau Roman » et de « l’anti-roman » (proposée par Sartre).
    Comment peut-on examiner les résonances de l’œuvre de Nabokov dans le paysage artistique français et la manière dont ce paysage l’a inspiré? Il ne s’agit pas d’une question triviale d’influence directe. Cependant quand Nabokov a commencé Feu pâle en 1959 (Autres Rivages), il était déjà familier avec les romans de Beckett, de Robbe-Grillet, et de l’Oulipo. On peut donc argumenter que la littérature française des années 50 lui a fourni au moins des questions sur l’état du roman. En fait, Paul Braffort a déjà traité du rapport entre Nabokov et Queneau. Jane Grayson a examiné les échos entre Nabokov and Perec.
     Je propose d’examiner les relations artistiques entre Nabokov et Robbe-Grillet d’une manière comparative. Feu pâle et les romans de Robbe-Grillet lus par Nabokov — Le Voyeur (1955), La Jalousie (1957, « le plus beau roman d’amour depuis Proust, » selon Nabokov), et Dans le labyrinthe (1959) — abordent souvent les mêmes thématiques: le roman policier, les jeux narratifs, le rapport entre l’auteur et le lecteur, la voix d’un narrateur-voyeur, et l’obsession. Il existe des échos entre les techniques narratives de Nabokov et les effets cinématiques de Robbe-Grillet qui a admis que, bien que Feu pâle n’ait pas influencé Trans-Europ-Express (1966), son film avait « un peu la même structure: une pyramide d’imaginaires. » Leurs solutions artistiques sont souvent différentes cependant. Le rapport entre ces deux écrivains est un dialogue intellectuel et artistique qui les défie de penser l’avenir du roman et qui met leurs talents à l’épreuve.

 

Alisa Zhulina : Doctorante en littérature comparée et études cinématographiques à l’Université de Harvard. Pensionnaire étrangère à l’Ecole Normale Supérieure 2012-2013.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



WOOD, Michael – Princeton University, USA
‘Do you mind cutting out the French: Nabokov’s disinvention of Europe’.

Nabokov said it had taken him ‘some forty years to invent Russia and Western Europe’. The chief sense of ‘invent’ in this context is ‘recreate’, compose worlds that are both imaginary and real, like Balzac’s Paris and Dickens’ London. But Nabokov’s phrase has another, more polemical sense: he has replaced the received ideas of others with constructions of his own, devised and denied the cultures and histories he needs for his work.  This lecture seeks to explore one of these constructions, which we might think of as the France of Pierre Delalande.

 

Michael Wood is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University.  He is the author of The Magician’s Doubts and many essays on Nabokov. His most recent literary book is Yeats and Violence.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



SWEENEY, Susan Elizabeth – College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
Nabokov, Charles Perrault, and Tales of Times Past

    Nabokov’s intertextual gambits invoke many popular narrative genres, including “nursery tales.”  Although he was clearly influenced by Russian folklore (as the pseudonym “Sirin” suggests) and English fairy tales, Nabokov’s most frequent allusions to this genre are to the French tales recorded and revised by Charles Perrault, in 1697, as Histoires ou Contes du temps passé.  Nabokov probably first heard them from his Swiss governess, Cécile Miauton—later memorialized as “Mademoiselle” in Speak, Memory—who devoted lessons to reading French classics aloud to her charges.  He may have also encountered them at Cambridge, where one of his two principal subjects was medieval and modern French; he wrote more than one final examination essay set during Perrault’s literary period, and told a girlfriend that he was working hard reading volumes of seventeenth-century French (Boyd, VNRY 183, 186, 194).
   In his fiction, Nabokov alludes to at least four of Perrault’s original eight tales: “La Belle au bois dormant,” “Le Petit Chaperon rouge,” “Cendrillon,” and “La Barbe-bleue.”  I have previously discussed his references to “Sleeping Beauty,” as well as to Doré’s illustration of that tale; Dmitri Nabokov points out imagery in The Enchanter relating to “Little Red Riding Hood” (100); other critics mention, in passing, the numerous allusions to “Cinderella” in his English novels.  However, no one has considered Nabokov’s focus on Perrault’s tales, in particular, or the way that he emphasizes their origins with French phrases and multilingual puns, as in “La Petite Dormeuse ou l’Amant Ridicule” (Lolita 129); “brat’ia s shapron-ruzh’iami,” a Russian homophone for “chaperon rouge” (“Volshebnik” 41); or the pervasive motif linking Blanche with “Cendrillon” in Ada.  In addition to Perrault’s evident impact on Nabokov’s imagery and wordplay, the earlier writer’s ironic tone—especially in the multiple morals appended to each tale—may have influenced Nabokov’s own witty, self-reflexive narration. 

 

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney teaches English and creative writing at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.  She has published over 30 essays and book chapters on Nabokov, including, since 2009, “Thinking about Impossible Things in Nabokov,” in Transitional Nabokov; “‘Bad, Bad Girl’: Juvenile Delinquency in Lolita,” in Lolita: From Nabokov to Kubrick and Lyne; “Lolita, I Presume: On a Character Entitled ‘Lolita,” in Miranda; and “‘Almost Completed but Only Partly Corrected’: Enacting Revision in Nabokov’s Novels,” in Revising Nabokov Revising.  Beth is presently co-editing a volume of essays entitled “Nabokov’s Morality Play: Ethical Problems in His Fiction,” and was invited to serve as associate editor for a proposed edition of Nabokov’s complete works.  Twice elected president of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, she continues to co-edit the Vladimir Nabokov Electronic Forum (NABOKV-L).  Beth also publishes on American literature, detective fiction, narrative theory, postmodernism, and Poe.

 

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



 
SHVABRIN, Stanislas – Princeton University, USA
“Quand le chagrin, l’exil et les années auront flétri ce cœur désespéré…”: Alfred de Musset, Vladimir Nabokov and the Invention of Exile

    In “Mademoiselle O” V. Nabokoff-Sirine (1936) famously contrasts the tastes of an average Russian lover of French literature, an unimaginative admirer of Sully Prudhomme and de Musset, with the decidedly finer predilections that distinguished his younger self, a “barbare, ami de Rabelais et de Shakespeare,” over whose adolescence presided not Copée or Lamartine, but Verlaine and Mallarmé.
In reality that same exuberant savage felt compelled to tone down – or suppress altogether – a number of frivolous images in his adaptation of Romain Rolland’s Colas Breugnon, and it has long been established that V. Nabokoff-Sirine’s repudiation of de Musset’s “lyrisme sanglotant” in “Mademoiselle O” conceals a far more complex and intriguing relationship inextricably connecting Vladimir Nabokov with the author of the “Nuits.” Nabokov, who published a highly personalized Russian version of de Musset’s “La Nuit de décembre” in 1916 only to retranslate it for a 1928 publication (a Russian version of “La Nuit de mai” had been published a year earlier) not simply continued to nourish a peculiarly strong attachment to the French poet whose brand of Romanticism had been ridiculed as derivative and outmoded by his Russian critics as early as 1863, but persisted in incorporating references to “La Nuit de mai” into such diverse mature principle texts as his eulogy of Vladislav Khodasevich (1939) and Ada (1969).
    Without the slightest inclination to underestimate the groundbreaking research and excellent interpretative work by Jane Grayson (see her “French Connection: Nabokov and Alfred de Musset. Ideas and Practices of Translation,” 1995), I am nonetheless prepared to argue that our knowledge of Nabokov’s association with de Musset is far from complete. Nabokov’s attachment to de Musset may have all the appearance of a hopelessly pathetic liaison with an infatuation of one’s early days; surprisingly or not, the role played by de Musset in Nabokov’s evolution places him on the same pedestal where we find such true beacons of his literary tastes as Byron, Keats and Heinrich Heine. It is to the task of highlighting such lesser-known aspects of Nabokov’s alliance with de Musset that I hope to be able to apply myself should my abstract be deemed worthy of inclusion in the program of the Parisian forum.

Stanislas Shvabrin : In addition to his scholarly and editorial work on Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Kuzmin, Georgy Ivanov and Martina Tsvetaeva, Stanislas Shvabrin has done research in the areas of Russian diaspora studies from Andrey Kurbsky to interbellum Parisian literature. Apart from a number of academic miscellanies, his articles and reviews have appeared in Nabokovskii vestnik, Zvezda, The Nabokovian, Comparative Literature, Slavic and East European Journal, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Slavic Review and Russian Literature.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



SCHUMAN, Samuel – University of Minnesota, USA
The Riddle of Genre in ‘Mademoiselle O’

    The short story “Mademoiselle O” was, according to its author Vladimir Nabokov, first written in French, in France, and published in Paris in 1939.  It reappeared, in an English translation by Nabokov and Hilda Ward, in The Atlantic Monthly, then in Nine Stories. It re-reappeared, in a “final, slightly different version, with stricter adherence to autobiographical truth” as Chapter 5 in Conclusive Evidence/Speak Memory.  Brian Boyd discusses the real-life Cecile Miauton, the model for Mademoiselle O in Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years, and French echoes and influences in the story have been described and analyzed by Jacqueline Hamrit.
  My interest is in the “meta questions” raised by this work. Can essentially the same utterance be understood to be a fictional short story and a non-fiction autobiographical essay? To what extent does the publication context of a work determine its genre (that is, if it is published in an autobiography is it “fact” and if the same words appear as a short story, does it become “fiction”)? What does this tell us about how VN sees the relationship between fiction and fact? Is the border between fact and fiction one of those transparent things, through which it is easy to fall? What does all this tell us about how VN sees the relationship between his imagination and his life? To what extent is it relevant that this work grew in part from the French cultural context and did that cultural context influence these generic issues?

 

Dr. Samuel Schuman served as President of the Vladimir Nabokov Society in 1980-82.  He is the author of Vladimir Nabokov:  A Reference Guide, and has published over 25 articles on VN.  He has presented papers on Nabokov at the MLA and AATSEEL Conferences, at the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg, and at the international Nabokov meetings in Kyoto and Auckland.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



ROWBERRY, Simon – University of Winchester, United Kingdom
Reading Queneau Reading Nabokov

   As Jane Grayson has previously discussed in “Nabokov and Perec,” there is little overlap between the Oulipo and Nabokov biographically, although both parties appeared to have appreciated some of the other’s work. It is from a formal perspective that Nabokov and Oulipo authors have the greatest crossover, since both are known for their love and use of word games in their fiction.  Rather than suggesting a comparative reading of Oulipian and Nabokovian texts, this paper will explore the possibilities of applying the interpretative possibilities of Oulipo, including Jean Lescure’s “n+7” method to Nabokov’s corpus, to perform what  Jerome McGann and Johanna Drucker call a deformative reading. This paper will consider the fruitfulness of such a methodology for reading Nabokov’s texts, acknowledging that such an approach can often lead to creative misreadings rather than strict and rigorous interpretation. This can be off-set, however, by the use of equivalent misreadings in Nabokov’s works, such as Shade’s pivotal misreading in his poem, “Pale Fire.” Through careful negotiation of these tricky issues, I hope to reveal a potential reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s works.

 

Simon Rowberry is a PhD candidate at the University of Winchester. His dissertation, “Social Reading and Social Texts on the Literary Web,” argues for the continuity between print and electronic literature and how the digitization of books and social networking is changing how we read and interpret authors including Vladimir Nabokov.

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Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013



RAMPTON, David – Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa, Canada
Mediocrity, Platitudes, and Arch Criminals: French Literature in Nabokov’s Eugene Onegin

    Nabokov’s Eugene Onegin has quite rightly come to be seen as a dramatic encounter between Russian and English, an attempt to work out a new understanding of how the “to” language in a translation can be related to the “from”. It is also a four-volume magnum opus, organized around one grand idea, the dream of absolute fidelity, and occasioned by a desire to mitigate the difficulties of aesthetic access, even as it acknowledges the necessity of resigning oneself to them. In this way Pushkin’s great narrative poem becomes Nabokov’s extraordinarily useful crib and a monumental exercise in the exigencies of exhaustive annotation and creative commentary. But French figures prominently in every aspect of this edition. As we work through the massive number of notes, Nabokov’s third language and its literature create their own set of reference points and apposite allusions, their matrix of sources, their conventions and their admonitions. In the end, the relevance of what a multitude of French writers – poets, translators, novelists, philosophers, literary critics – did in the hundred years preceding the poem’s publication arguably makes French as important a language for this version of Eugene Onegin as Pushkin’s inimitable Russian and Nabokov’s fiendishly precise and provocative English.
    Scholars have made substantial efforts to annotate Nabokov’s annotations, and now that French Slavists and French critics interested in his work are seeing so much of each other, we shall no doubt learn more about the multiple roles that French literature played in the creation of Pushkin’s masterpiece. Yet despite the considerable work devoted to discussing this translation in the almost 50 years since its appearance, it seems fair to say that the tone of Nabokov’s commentary has militated against instant, enthusiastic, and universal recognition of his achievement on the part of French critics. True, Nabokov heaps extravagant praise on Chateaubriand, speaks highly of Constant’s Adolphe, compliments Parny on his erotic poems, describes Musset as colourful and witty, greatly admires Senancour’s Oberman, and writes sympathetically about figures like Bichat, but dozens of figures from 18th– and 19th-century French literature are banished from the ranks of serious literature and consigned to the scrap heap of the mediocre. Its poets are hopelessly conventional, its translations (from languages ancient and modern) appalling, its conventions outdated, its insights mere commonplaces, its studies superficial, its ultimate irrelevance utterly assured. Virulent black humour is the order of the day: one of the worst offenders, Paul Bitaubé, who had the audacity to publish a well received prose abridgement of Homer’s epics in the 1780s is called an “arch criminal”.
    My purpose here is not so much to explain the reasons for or debate the cogency of such sweeping and passionate dismissals but rather to muse about their consequences. By concentrating on four major figures singled out for special opprobrium – Madame de Stael, Voltaire, Sainte-Beuve and Rousseau – I want to show how such judgments can deflect the attention of those interested in the links between Pushkin and French literature, and how his insistence on their vapidity orchestrates the inexorable return of what Nabokov seeks to repress. Far from being negligible figures in the complex story of Onegin’s genesis and execution, what these writers thought and wrote links them in important ways to the many issues Pushkin’s great poem raises, and to the concerns that Nabokov revisits in his commentary on it.
    In this paper, I shall confine myself to a few examples. Nabokov quotes Mme de Stael on how interesting it would be to compare Schiller’s views on lost youth (in his poem “Ideals”) with Voltaire’s. Nabokov goes on to say that he performed such a comparison and found nothing of note. In fact, the links between Schiller’s poem and Voltaire’s nostalgic meanderings turn out to be quite illuminating, and set up a veritable matrix of suggestive echoes. Voltaire’s verse may be as “abominably pedestrian” as Nabokov says it is, but it relates in interesting ways to the discussion of Gallicisms, platitudes, and general ideas raised by Pushkin’s poem. Where Pushkin finds “dry precision” in Sainte-Beuve’s comments on Delorme Nabokov can see only florid generalities. As the context of Pushkin’s observation and the thrust of Sainte-Beuve’s commentary make clear, the eminent French critic’s insights take us far beyond Delorme, to the very heart of the debate about melancholy and ennui in Europe at this time. Nabokov insists that the trashy quality of Rousseau’s work obviates the need for musing about parallels between his novel Julie and Onegin. Again, his claim is as misleading as the connections are suggestive. 
    Of course Nabokov’s loathing for what he calls in his commentary “elephantine platitudes” and their purveyors goes far beyond 18th– and 19th-century French literature. In the Onegin commentary he mentions Cervantes, George Eliot, Mann and Faulkner as examples of the same phenomenon, mediocre writers whose reputations have been inexplicably puffed up by academics incapable of recognizing genuine art. Such comments certainly generated a great deal of heat when Nabokov was alive. I want to see what kind of light they have to shed on the questions that continue to interest both Pushkin’s commentators and those of his magisterial and iconoclastic translator.

 

David Rampton, Professor of English at the University of Ottawa, is the author of Vladimir Nabokov: A Critical Study of the Novels (1984), Vladimir Nabokov (1993), William Faulkner: A Literary Life (2007), and Vladimir Nabokov: A Literary Life (2012). He has published numerous articles on 19th and 20th-century American Literature, and co-edited four anthologies of essays and short fiction.

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