Ellen Pifer


University of Delaware

Articles de l'auteur


Cycnos | Volume 24 n°1

Finding the “Real” Key to Lolita: A Modest Proposal

In announcing the topic for this conference, Maurice Couturier pays tribute to the rich benefits Nabokov scholars have reaped from the painstaking efforts of those who have focused on the myriad referencesartistic, historical, linguisticembedded in the author's texts. He goes on to suggest, however, that “there may be limits to such an enterprise,” although “we have no idea what those limits could be.” This essay is an attempt to identify some of those limits and to show how annotations can implicitly or inadvertently shape the reader's understanding of a text, even when the annotator disclaims any attempt at interpretation. In Lolita's case, specifically, the annotator striving to “solve” the novel's puzzles is liable, in the process, to undermine some of its crucial effectsranging from the subtlest verbal inflection to the cumulative impact of a passage or scene. In the course of my discussion I will offer my own rudimentary version of an interpretive strategy for reading Lolita. While remaining open to both the annotator's discoveries and Nabokov's own reflections on art, it is confined to neither. My approach is based on a hermeneutics that has grown out of my experience as a reader, and re-reader, of Nabokov's texts.

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Cycnos | Volume 10 n°1

Innocence and Experience Replayed: From Speak Memory to Ada

“Shortly after Lolita was published in the United States, Leslie Fiedler had this to say about the novel: “Richardson, Dickens and Henry James are controverted, all customary symbols for the encounter of innocence and experience stood on their heads. Nowhere are the myths of sentimentality more amusing[ly] and convincingly parodied.”1 In Love and Death in the American Novel, Fiedler takes his point further: “it is the naive child, the female, the American who corrupts the sophisticated adult, the male, the European.” Nabokov’s child, he concludes, is Poe’s “A...”

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Cycnos | Volume 12 n°2

Birds of a Different Feather: Nabokov’s Lolita and Kosinski’s Boy

“In a recent article Maurice Couturier observes that the “traumatic event” of World War II had an enormous “impact” on postwar writers, whose knowledge of genocide and the Holocaust led them to question “the sanity of organized and developed societies.” Spawning radical doubts about human nature and civilization, the war helped to create the cultural divide that separates postmodernist writers from their literary predecessors. In Professor Couturier’s view Nabokov’s major English novels, beginning with Lolita, are located on the postmodernist side of this juncture or “crossroads.” Exposed by the war to “the fragility of the old ...”

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