Framing Nabokov: Modernism, Multiculturalism, World Literature

John Burt Foster

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Abstract :
Notoriously resistant to being contextualized, Nabokov would probably have regarded all three of the cross-cultural terms in my subtitle as misleading simplifications or even distortions? -as frames not in the honorific sense of adding luster to his career but in the negative one of deliberate falsification. Yet in fact are they any more misleading than the widely used epithets "Russian" and "American," which in effect extend the two main languages in which he wrote into larger claims of cultural identity? After briefly considering the annotation versus interpretation issue as applied to Nabokov’s affiliations with international modernism, this paper will examine these two more recent attempts to place him in cross-cultural frameworks.Neither multiculturalism nor world literature is rooted as explicitly as modernism in Nabokov’s own presentation of his work, nor is their definition as firmly established. It is doubtful, for example, that either term means quite the same thing in the United States and Europe. But in recent years, apart from the commentary surrounding the Lolita anniversary, the reception that Nabokov has received in the U.S. in such venues as book reviews, literature anthologies, and op-ed pieces suggests an attempt to see him in one of these two ways. Can either attempt be justified or even amplified?
Published : 2008-03-20


John Burt Foster, « Framing Nabokov: Modernism, Multiculturalism, World Literature », Cycnos, 2008-03-20. URL :