NABOKV-L post 0020727, Mon, 13 Sep 2010 18:13:41 -0300

Re: Phanes and Vanessa: Phenocopying - Shade and Kinbote????
Matt Roth (to Jansy) "Are you saying that these descriptions are at odds? I don't think so, since Shade too mentions the crimson bars on the dark Vanessa's wings. These flame-like bars draw Kinbote's attention, as well. So the Admirable is both dark & flame-like at the same time, depending upon your focus."

JM: You comments are very objective. Leland de la Durantaye emphasized, in "Pale Fire", a "thieving" dimension whereas, without disagreeing with him, I consider "Pale Fire" to be examplary of "deceit." In "Strong Opinions" (p.11) Nabokov states that "all art is deception and so is nature; all is deception in that good cheat, from the insect that mimics a leaf to the popular enticements of procreation." before he continues, stating that "deception in chess, as in art, is only part of the game; it's part of the combination, part of the delightful possibilities, illusions, vistas of thought, which can be false vistas, perhaps..."

My observation about different manifest Vanessas ("dark and red") is probably a "false vista," but it still delights me, in its link to my hypothesis concerning authorial intention. In my interpretation, Kinbote couldn't mention the Greek root for "engendering a shiny luminous appearance" directly, so he circumvented it through the indication of an "orphic divinity" ( "Phanes") in connection to the Vanessas, probably hinting at the source that inspired coinages, such as phenomenon,phenotype,phenocopy to indicate "deceitful nature, and its expression in art" (Vanessa's mimetism and the relation bt. Shade and Kinbote or, from a new perspective, the relation between Sybil and Kinbote).

There are still manifold interpretations about a Vanessa mimetism, perhaps they will lead one only to "false vistas of thought" ... As I understand it, right now (I'm open to change my opinion) Shade(Nabokov) would be the "originator" ("genotype") for other "phanes-like" manifestations ( Sybil, Kinbote, Gradus, as "phenotypes" of what remains hidden or recessive in him). In what way would Kinbote copy Shade? Not physically, I'm sure, although Kinbote was full of artful disguises.

A writer can lead one into one direction without invalidating another one (the orphic belief in serial lives and re-incarnation). While perusing the internet I also read another curious item in relation to the Vanessa butterfly reproductive cycle. (I'll only mention what I can still remember and I don't know if it's scientifically precise) Every year three batches of Vanessas emerge, two of these with a short-life span, from egg/larvae/butterfly ie, birth and death, whereas the later one (which emerges in August or September) hybernates, flies to Mexico and returns to procreate five or six months later. Shade's Vanessa falls into the short-lived brood. I have no idea if this fits into "Pale Fire" or relates to the "IPH" thematic.

Subject: [NABOKOV-L] Phanes and Vanessa: Phenocopying - Shade and Kinbote????
From: Jansy <>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2010 11:50:38 -0300
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Returning to Matt Roth's quote and information about "Kinbote's note to 270: It is so like the heart of a scholar in search of a fond name to pile a butterfly genus upon an Orphic divinity on top of the inevitable allusion to Vanhomrigh, Esther! [...] According to some sources, the three primary Orphic divinities are Phanes, Uranus, and Cronus. In the Pale Fire cosmology, these are related to the Vanessa, Kinbote (Uranist), and Father Time (more on him in a different post).
Any other ideas?

JM: I was led from orphic "Phanes" to "phaneros" and, unexpectedly to "phanein". Initially, my attention was centered on the meaning of "light-giver" and "manifestation" associated to Phanes. Then to the hidden "evanescence" ( sudden manifestation like a flare in an "epiphany"). Finally, researching on an independent issue ("phenocopy") I found its links to "phanein" meaning to "making manifest." (perhaps inspiring other coinages, such as phenotype and phenomenon). One of the wiki-entries denied any connection between Phanes/Phanessa and the butterfly's name, Vanessa. Another one, related to phenotype, led me along a completely differenet lane.

According to a wiki-source, the Greek "phainein" inspired Richard Goldschmidt to coin the word "phenocopy". "Phenotype" was created earlier by Wilhelm L. Johannsen, while "phenomenon" was referred to Kant *. The amazing thing is that the first example of a "phenocopy" * described the Vanessa butterfly. I learned that it can mimic other unrelated butterflies, when living under similar environmental conditions and changed its appearance when it lived in another site.

In my opinion, this is a fascinating link to Pale Fire's Vanessa and Kinbote's very informed commentary ( it almost makes me believe he and Shade are the same person!).

Another point that caused me to reconsider Shade's lines and Kinbote's commentary about them, derives from Shade's insistence about seeing Sybil in the guise of a "dark Vanessa", whereas Kinbote elaborated about its flaming red/orange color and how this "individual" butterfly danced as a flame, it flared and vanished, only to reappear before it was dissolved by the growing "shade."

Not only Kinbote's commentary about "orphic divinity" (as observed by Matt Roth) suggests that CK was more knowledgeable about butterflies than it was to be expected of him, but also the item about "phenocopy" (something Nabokov wouldn't have ignored since he was an expert on butterlies and mimetism) is striking, because also Shade might not have known about that.

This might be an instance in which Nabokov is speaking through Kinbote and Shade. It occurs to me that chess-pieces may be black and white, but also black and red (or orange?). Shade's "dark Vanessa" (Sybil) might stand for the black chess-pieces, Kinbote's would be the red ones. The divine chess-player could be Nabokov himself, in the guise of Shade?

* (Wiki) A phenocopy is an individual whose phenotype (generally referring to a single trait), under a particular environmental condition, is identical to the one of another individual whose phenotype is determined by the genotype. In other words the phenocopy environmental condition mimics the phenotype produced by a gene. The term was coined by Richard Goldschmidt in 1935[1]. He used it to refer to forms, produced by some experimental procedure, whose appearance duplicates or copies the phenotype of some mutant or combination of mutants. A phenocopy is not a type of mutation, it is an environmentally induced, non-hereditary phenotypic modification that resembles a similar phenotype produced by a gene mutation (genocopy).
An example of a phenocopy are the Vanessa genus of butterflies who can change phenotype based on the local temperature. If introduced to Lapland they mimic butterflies localised to this area and if localised to Syria they mimic buterflies of this area. These phenotypes aren't inherited and are solely due to environment.

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