NABOKV-L post 0018376, Tue, 9 Jun 2009 15:26:14 -0300

Re: VN Bibliography & online essay.
Don Johnson wrote: "This is worth a look for Pale Fire fans:" concerning "Writing Sample: Scraps Derived from Authentic Poems: Literary Forgery and the Structure of Pale Fire, by Shannon Chamberlain."

JM: Inspite of my very insufficient scholarship and means, my slow progress along "Pale Fire" ( and "RLSK") insistently led me to medieval texts that emerge as if shining through a random blend of more recent works contained in a palimpsest.
Part of my puzzlement has been admitted as a note in "The Nabokovian" (62),Spring 2009, in "When a Clown Develops Wings," where I link Nabokov's reference to Shakespeare's "arrased eavesdropper" to other names lurking together behind an arras (namely, Adan d'Arras, Chaucer behind Keats, Troyen's chansons and Cock Robin nursery rhymes).
My interpretation of "clowns and angels" led me to conclude that Nabokov, in his novels, mingled the sacred and the profane as a ruse to hide his personal strivings towards imortality and the hereafter.
Although this hypothesis is not necessarily invalidated by Shannon Chamberlain's fascinating study, it acquires a secondary status in relation to what S.C outlined concerning Nabokov's main literary pursuits.

For S.Chamberlain the "structure of Pale Fire, found object of found object, is constructed as distraction from art considered as art: by deliberately shrouding the poem's provenance in the insufficient scholarship of its commentary, Nabokov lays a trap for the scholar unwilling to consider the aesthetic qualities of John Shade's poem* " - something I'm unable to evaluate. Nevertheless everything else in the artice provides fundamental information concerning the debate bt. Shadeans, non-Shadeans, Alter's separate Shade and Kinbote, Bryan Boyd's Hazel's and John Shade's ghostly interventions, Don Johnson's contention that Charles Kinbote represents "another level of fiction," - arguments which are conducive to SC's own arguments about "the broad similarities between Kinbote's story and Igor's"[...] and his demonstration, by way of analogy to the Slovo, that Shade's poem would be "the authentic output of a lone artist."
Am I wrong to understand that S.Chamberlain's conclusion endorses both D.B.Johnson's and Robert Alter's contentions that Shade and Kinbote are separate individuals?

* For S.Chamberlain "Truth for Nabokov did not lie in the philology of Mazon and Jakobson (both of whom are parodied in Kinbote) or in any kind of traditionally-defined "scholarship" at all. [...] "Insufficient scholarship" is, in both the Slovo and Pale Fire, improper attentiveness to art qua art"

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: