David Rampton

As We Like It: Nabokov and the Passions of Reading

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Abstract :
The topic as formulated invites us to think about how the work of those who write on Nabokov divides up, about annotation vs. interpretation, the respective challenges that inevitably await those who undertake such activities, and the cross-overs and sub-categories they imply. Since participants have been generously given "ample latitude to speak on any subject" related to this theme, this paper will explore some of the further divisions that occurred to me when I began to think about the subject, namely admiration and adoration, and their dark doubles, denigration and detestation. The justification for this way of dividing up readers in Nabokov's world is at least fourfold. First, it reminds us of the passionate ways he read his precursors and contemporaries. Second, it helps us understand better some of his most interesting characters, characters as different as Fyodor and Kinbote. They are both readers who annotate and interpret, certainly, but they stay in our minds because they burn with the love of their subjects, and are conversely animated by a passionate antipathy for those whom they view as obstacles to the realization of their respective goals. Third, such a division casts light on some of the cultural assumptions at work in the responses to Nabokov's fiction. Finally, it can assist a new generation of readers in orienting themselves when exchanges about Nabokov's work become particularly heated. Identifying the shifting criteria at work in this play of responses and describing the ways that literary and historical context have acted to redefine the terms at issue will help shed new light on why Nabokov criticism has assumed its current shape.
Published : 2008-03-20

Citation

David Rampton, « As We Like It: Nabokov and the Passions of Reading », Cycnos, 2008-03-20. URL : http://epi-revel.univ-cotedazur.fr/publication/item/590