Nabokov and Cultural Synthesis
Fall 2004

Priscilla Meyer, X3127 or 347-0059

Office hours: Monday, Wednesday11:00-12:00; 3:00-4:00 or by appointment

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (1823-1831), trans. James Falen
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977):

Translation of Eugene Onegin (1964)
Commentary to Eugene Onegin (1964)
Speak,Memory (1954; 1966)
Invitation to a Beheading (1938)
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941)
The Gift (1952)
Pnin (1953-1955)
Lolita (1955)
Pale Fire (1962)
"Signs and Symbols" (1948)
"The Vane Sisters" (1951)

On Reserve at Olin
Alfred Appel, ed. The Annotated Lolita (annotations only)
Walter Arndt, translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin
Brian Boyd, Nabokov: The Russian Years
Nabokov: The American Years
G. A. Burger, “Lenore”
D. Barton Johnson, Worlds in Regression
Charles Johnston, translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin
Gene Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact: Nabokov’s Pnin
Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers
Andrew Field, Nabokov: His Life in Art
D. Barton Johnson, Worlds in Regression
Michael Juliar, Vladimir Nabokov: A Descriptive Bibliography
Priscilla Meyer, Find What the Sailor Has Hidden
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (screenplay)
Eugene Onegin, translation and commentary
Nomi Tamir-Ghez, “Rhetorical Manipulation in Nabokov’s Lolita”
Duffield White, “Nabokov’s Literary Polemic in The Gift”
Student papers from past courses

Course Requirements
The course will be conducted as a seminar. Students will be asked to make two class presentations approximately 15 minutes long during the semester, working in pairs; be sure to discuss the topic with me a week before your presentation. There will be three formal written assignments: your “translation” of Onegin; a short motif study; and a hefty (~20 pp.) term paper at the conclusion of the course. The term paper must be submitted first in outline form and discussed with me in order to be read in its final form. There will also be occasional short written assignments due in class, which constitute part of your course work.


6 Introduction: The Reader as Detective
“An Evening of Russian Poetry”
Translation, literal and metaphysical
8 Speak, Memory: autobiography or fiction?
Student Presentation: Trace a motif (note the index)
1, 2.________________________________________

13 Speak, Memory: Prisms
Student Presentation: patterning in Speak, Memory
3, 4._________________________________________
15 Eugene Onegin
Chapter 1: Onegin and “Pushkin”
5, 6. ______________________________________________
Chapter 2: Lensky and German Romanticism
7, 8. ______________________________________________

20 Eugene Onegin
Chapters 3-5: Tatyana
Student presentation: Pushkin’s characterization of Tatyana and The Muse
(note esp. 8, IV)
9, 10. _____________________________________________
Chapters 6—8: Metamorphoses
Student Presentation: Metamorphoses (Tatyana, Onegin) and
Pushkin’s Literary Aesthetics (narrator, hero, author)
11, 12. ______________________________________________
22 Nabokov’s Translation of Onegin: Archaic? What is translation? Student Presentation: Literal vs.
Paraphrastic translation (Nabokov, Johnston, Arndt, others?)
13, 14. ____________________________________________
Nabokov’s Index to his Commentary: Useful?
Student Presentation: heroes and villains of the Commentary (poets, translators, commentators)
15, 16.______________________________________________

27 PAPER DUE: Write you own “translation” of Eugene Onegin into the United
States of 2004, in whatever genre you deem appropriate. Be sure to include the
author’s persona and the characters’ metamorphoses. See web site for examples.

Nabokov’s Commentary to Onegin: Encyclopedic? Opinionated?
Student Presentation: Nabokov’s persona and the reader
17, 18. _______________________________________________
29 Invitation to a Beheading
Student Presentation: blue and red
21, 22.___________________________________________

4 Invitation to a Beheading
Student Presentation: the spider and the pencil
6 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight:
Student Presentation: Sebastian Knight’s bookshelf
23, 24.__________________________________________

11 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: whose pursuit of what and whom?
Presentation: grey vs. silver; black and violet; art and life; the hereafter
25, 26.__________________________________________
Write for next class: who wrote the book?(one clearly formulated paragraph
with your reasoning)
13 The Gift: fiction or autobiography?
Presentation: Speak, Memory and The Gift: points of contact
27, 28._________________________________________
[October 18--break]

20 The Gift
Presentation: the Chernyshevsky biography
29, 30._________________________________________
cf. Sir Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers, pp. 224-231

25 The Gift
Presentation: blues, buttterflies, prefiguration, apotheosis
31, 32.________________________________________
Write for class: what will happen to Fyodor after we leave him?
27 PAPER DUE: motif study (~4pp.) See web page “motif study” guidelines.
As efficiently as possible, trace a motif and show how it creates meaning in the text,
using any of the last three novels we have read. Prepare to present your findings in
class in 2 minutes, with a handout containing page citations of your motif and a
paragraph summarizing its meaning. Remember that the goal is the interpretation,
which may include more than one conclusion.

cf. D.B.Johnson, Worlds in Regression, “Alphabetic Rainbows in Speak, Memory”
(on reserve in Olin)

Peer review
Exchange papers with a classmate, edit each other, and submit your second
draft of your paper using your editor’s comments. See web page “peer review”

Class discussion: The Gift, circularity, the key motif, Fyodor’s artistic growth.

1 Pnin: use Gene Barabtarlo’s Phantom of Fact as you Reread
Presentation: Squirrels, mermaids, glass slippers
33, 34._______________________________________
Article: Charles Nicol, “Pnin’s History,” in Novel, Vol. 4, N.3 (Spring 1971)
3 Pnin
Presentation: Who is the Narrator?
35, 36.________________________________________
8 Lolita: Muses—Terpsichore, Mnemosyne and others
Presentation: Annabel Leigh/Annabel Lee
37, 38.________________________________________
10 Lolita: The Status of Quilty
Presentation: Quilty, Schiller and Doppelgangers
39, 40.________________________________________
cf. Otto Rank, The Double in Literature (Sci Li)
Ralph Tymms, The Double in Literature

7 Lolita: Humbert as Romantic Narrator: the poet or the madman?
Presentation: 41, 42._______________________________________
Read:Tamir-Ghez, “Rhetorical Manipulation etc.” (on reserve)
9 Lolita as a treatise on literary aesthetics
Presentation: Lolita and Onegin
43, 44._________________________________
Read: P. Meyer, Find What the Sailor Has Hidden, Chap. 1
(xerox and book on reserve)

15 Pale Fire: Shade’s Poem
Presentation: Great Art? Parody? Wasteland?
45, 46.__________________________________
17 Pale Fire: Kinbote’s Commentary
Class: What “actually” happened?

22 Pale Fire: Kinbote as Commentator
Presentation: Mirrors and projections: Kinbote, Shade and Gradus
47, 48.__________________________________

29 DUE: Outline of final paper, to be returned to you by the last day of classes
Pale Fire: synthesis: Kinbote vs. Nabokov
Presentation: where do the disparate views come together?
49, 50.__________________________________
1 Pale Fire: Metaphysics
Class : the Hereafter in PF and elsewhere in VN
Write: a page outlining a parallel between PF and another work

6 "Signs and Symbols" and “The Vane Sisters” (xerox)
Class interpretation
8 Free-for-all: submit discussion topics to by 9PM, December 7th

Final papers due first day of exam week, to be delivered to my mailbox in the Russian dept. office, 215 Fisk Hall