Abstract

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita exhibits the influence of a Charles Dickens—not the biographical Dickens who lived and wrote, but the more or less fictional Dickens whom Nabokov creates in his lectures on European literature. In these lectures, taught at Cornell University during the period of Lolita's composition, Nabokov rhapsodizes about an apolitical Bleak House. He overrides Dickens's obvious sociological concerns by replacing the biographical author with a fictional construct whose aesthetics and ethics mirror Nabokov's own. Nabokov's aggressive interpretation of Bleak House, representative of his struggle to master the English language and its literature, proves integral to his revision of 1939's The Enchanter into 1955's Lolita. He borrows characterization strategies from Dickens's novel and his own evaluation of the work. Most significantly, he introduces the theme of "false childishness" to the new draft, fashioning the relationship between Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze after Dickens's oppositional pairing of Horace Skimpole and Charley Neckett. By usurping Dickens for his own use (thereby breaking severely from his friend Edmund Wilson's view of the author), Nabokov positions himself in both relation and opposition to canonical English prose.

Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Launched on MUSE
2009-10-04
Open Access
No
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