NABOKV-L post 0018957, Mon, 14 Dec 2009 13:22:52 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] TOoL and Wild's Homunculus
One of the particular exciting Nabokovian elements reappears in TOoL: the wealth of hidden associations which often stimulate me to pick up remnants of my past experiences. This time, from Dr. Philip Wild's peculiar speculations about the underside of the eyelid (the very tactile palpebrae) and bodily sensations*, I was carried to Freud's theories about the"cortical homunculus of the anatomists"

From the Nabokov&Wilson correspondence I learned that Nabokov had read, at least, a good deal of the Freud's letters to Fliess where a first schema was mentioned and gradually developed into what one reads in Freud's "The Ego and the Id" (1923,p.26,SEXIX):
"The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself a projection of a surface. If we wish to find an anatomical analogy for it we can best identify it with the 'cortical homunculus' of the anatomists, which stands on its head in the cortex, sticks up its heels, faces backwards and, as we know, has its speech-area on the left-hand side." **

The diagram on page 24 (reproduced in one of the attached figures) links Freud's model to the diagram presented on Lecture XXXI (1933a), to a simplified flat one in "The Interpretation of Dreams" (1900a) and in Freud's letter to Fliess ( December 6, 1896, letter 52). In 1923 (following his initial work with aphasics) Freud remarked that "in essence a word is after all the mnemic residue of a word that has been heard." (page 21, 19123,XIX).

From fictional doctor Wild's words we get closer to Shade, and Kinbote, than to the real anatomists of old. The "homunculus" which is most familiar to every student of neurophysiology is Penfield's. The nice (probably casual) item is related to Penfield's name: Wilder***. I don't think that Dr. Philip Wild had Penfield in mind because his theories diverge from the anatomist's researches and finds.

* - TOoL (page 31): "The student who desires to die should learn first of all to project a mental image of himself upon his inner black-board. This surface which at its virgin best has a dark-plum, rather than black, depth of opacity is none other than the underside of one's closed eyelids."

Compare to Shade's lines 30-40 in Pale Fire: "My eyes were such that literally they/ Took photographs. Whenever I'd permit,/Or, with a silent shiver, order it,/ Whatever in my field of vision dwelt ...Was printed on my eyelids' nether side/.../ And while this lasted all I had to do/Was close my eyes to reproduce..."; Or else, Kinbote's: "Such hearts, such brains, would be unable to comprehend that one's attachment to a masterpiece may be utterly overwhelming, especially when it is the underside of the weave that entrances the beholder and only begetter, whose own past intercoils there with the fate of the innocent author."

** - Mascodagama inversions were first mentioned by VN in LEL (and equally described by Chesterton - cf. old VN-L postings with more information).

*** -Cf. Wilder Penfield and T. Rasmunsen's homunculus (1950)

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