Marie C. Bouchet (University of Toulouse) sheds light on how Nabokov subverts the Ut Pictura Poesis tradition through his intermedial use of non-canonical pictorial references in the paper titled “Popular Culture as an Intermedial Source: Nabokov’s Subversive Use of the Ut Pictura Poesis Topos in Lolita, Novel and Screenplay.” These pictorial references are taken from popular culture and include commercial ads, amateur snapshots, or magazine pictures. The focus is on Lolita, for it is a highly intermedial work--a novel in which popular culture plays a major role at the level of plot, characterization, structure, motifs, and poetics. This paper also focalizes upon the Lolita screenplays—the various unpublished drafts as well as the 1974 published version—in order to analyze Nabokov’s attempt to transfer the intermedial features of his novel into a filmic system of signs. In this paper Bochet contends that Nabokov’s ekphrases of popular culture items not only belong to his more typical intermedial strategies, but mostly serve parodic, structural, and self-reflexive purposes. Quite systematically, in these instances of playful intermedial work on popular culture items, Nabokov interweaves high- and low-brow references that require just as much readerly participation and response as his more traditional ekphrases or allusions to Art. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
Péter Tamás’s (Eötvös Loránd University) paper, “The Attraction of Montages: Cinematic Writing Style in Nabokov’s Lolita,” examines the role of Nabokov’s use of cinematic narrative devices in Lolita. By incorporating cinematic elements into his prose, Nabokov creates an intermedial text which impacts the reader in two ways. On the one hand, Humbert composes montage-passages divert the audience’s attention from Lolita’s suffering. On the other hand, his verbal montages imitate Eisenstein’s cinematic technique of “intellectual montage.” Humbert admits that he cannot grasp their meaning, but Nabokov hides important clues in these passages and invites the reader to find and understand them. Despite the importance of cinematic elements, Nabokov also counterbalances his novel’s kinship with film lest Lolita seem to succumb entirely to film form. Thus, while Nabokov makes creative use of the influence of cinema, he also asserts the autonomy of literature. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
Frank Göbler’s (University of Mainz) essay, “Nabokov’s Novel Mašen’ka in the Film Adaptations of 1987 and 1991,” focuses on the writer’s first novel and its screen adaptation. The novel was adapted for film in 1986 by a largely British/German team in a European production, and was shown in European film theatres in 1987/88 without meeting with much success. The film was later televised in 1989. In 1991, Mašen’ka was adapted for a second time in a Russian TV studio production. The Russian film followed the novel’s recent publication in 1986—which was the first Soviet publication of a work by the émigré Nabokov. As such, it reflects the rediscovery of Nabokov for the Russian public, working with strong symbolism and featuring the images of the manor house that had once belonged to the Nabokov family. Both Western and post-Soviet films take a rather illustrative approach to the literary material and are, thus, conceptually quite similar. They mainly follow the plot of the novel, embedding Ganin’s memories of the woman he loved in his youth as flashbacks intruding into the sequence of present-day events. Both films also use similar coloration techniques, showing pre-revolutionary Russia in bright daylight, full with the beauty of rural spring and summer (although the European version also includes a winter scene), while the Berlin of the 1920s is set in sombre tones, with grey predominating in the Russian version. Similarly, the background music in both films evokes a nostalgic atmosphere. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
Juan Martinez’s (Northwestern University) article “Bridge, Median, and Underpass: Nabokov’s Circulation in Movies and Television” observes that large numbers of works, such as novels, television shows, popular songs, and films, include references to Nabokov and particularly to Lolita. Both the author and his literary creation have accrued significance as cultural capital, and allusions to either of them are frequently used as bridges between literature-as-art and popular culture, between notions of “high” and “low culture.” In many instances, the mere reference to Nabokov or one of his works symbolically conveys sophistication on the part of the person associated with the reference or evokes specific ideas about authorship, often in service of self-legitimation. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
As Suellen Stringer-Hye (Vanderbilt University) asserts in her research, “Plexed Artistry: The Poetics of Data in ‘The Vane Sisters’,” patterns, textures, allusions, puzzles, anagrams, acrostics – these are the materials that Nabokov uses to construct his worlds. Using the mathematical graphing software Neo4j, Stringer-Hye has annotated the Nabokov story, “The Vane Sisters” in order to expose some hidden and visible connections that Nabokov employs to create not just the narrative but also the fabric of the tale. Noting that aspects of the story take place on multiple planes, we see how Nabokov uses this technique to point outside of the confines of the fictional story to the “real world” as we know it and then beyond to the “other world” which is both suspect and essential to the successful resolution of the story. The interplay of these elements cast light and shade, color and contrast to the narrative and evoke a sense of “beyondness”. The Neo4j query language Cypher, allows us to ask questions of the annotations and express the kaleidoscope of patterns that is the alchemy of the Vane Sisters. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
The article by Pan Shan (Peking University) and Ulrich Eschborn (Beijing Institute of Technology), “Nabokov’s Lolita in China: Its Reception and the Rise of Popular Literature,” analyzes the connections between the rise of popular culture in mainland China and the publication history of Lolita, which was first published there in Chinese in 1989. In the first section, we explain that, in the decade after the Cultural Revolution, publishers used the more market-oriented and more liberal climate to profit economically by publishing translations of previously forbidden Western books. The second part of the article compares a passage from Wang Shuo’s popular novel Fierce Animals (1991) to the passage from Lolita in which Humbert Humbert first encounters Lolita. This comparison reveals striking parallels and serves as an example of how Nabokov’s novel figures as one element in the tremendous rise of Chinese popular culture. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
The essay “Lolita and Lana in the Age of Internet Memes” by Nassim W. Balestrini (Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria) and Silke Jandl (Centre for Intermediality Studies in Graz, CIMIG) examines the aesthetic strategies Lana Del Rey uses to integrate allusions to Nabokov and particularly to Lolita—as taken from Nabokov’s novel and from the film versions by Kubrick and Lyne--into the media content surrounding her music and artistic personae. We argue that Del Rey’s variegated adaptations of Lolita images confirm central tenets of Wiggins and Bowers’s conceptualization of the Internet meme as a genre that emerges according to specific patterns of creation and distribution. Thus, we show how Del Rey’s artistic engagement with the cultural legacy of Lolita confirms the persona’s status as an omnipresent, but strikingly chameleon Internet meme. While this meme continues to draw attention to the fictional character, it also demonstrates the figure’s broader cultural impact, which clearly transcends the original literary ambitus of the novel’s character. NOJ, Vol. X, 2016.
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The Nabokov Online Journal is indexed in the MLA Bibliography and ABSEES.
This publication is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada