NABOKV-L post 0027764, Thu, 17 May 2018 08:22:49 -0400

Subject
Re: Anne Dwyer on "Why I teach Lolita"
Date
Body
Brian Boyd is as always perspicuous and generous. I would suggest also
that while we struggle (if we do) to see that readers understand Nabokov
didn't condone perversion and sexual exploitation, that *Lolita* subtly but
entirely condemns his obsessed protagonist, that Nabokov was not
indifferent to the sufferings of his victim, it is in a sense beside the
point. Nabokov's crime -- if it is a crime -- lies not in condoning or
indulging sexual perversion and its expression, but in indulging his own
power to inveigle us into sharing it: and for no more moral a reason,
either, than to show that he ccould. For that there can be no excuse; nor,
I think, would Nabokov want one made.

John Crowley

On Wed, May 16, 2018 at 5:31 AM, Brian Boyd <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz> wrote:

> From Brian Boyd:
>
>
> I must confess I turned to Anne Dwyer’s article enthusiastically (even
> before Eric's post), because I find it harder and harder to teach *Lolita*
> to my students, but I was disappointed.
>
>
>
> Part of the problem of teaching *Lolita*, isn’t it, is that many student
> readers nowadays fixate on Humbert’s perversion and evil to the exclusion
> of all else in the novel, as if the fact that Hermann Karlovich was a
> murderer made everything else in *Despair *irrelevant or immaterial or
> uninteresting; yet *Lolita* is so many dimensions ampler than *Despair*.
>
>
>
> But if we *do* stick to Humbert’s predilections and behavior, and think
> in terms of the harm the book could cause, being about those predilections
> and that behavior from the inside, one of the strongest claims on behalf of
> *Lolita*, surely, is that sex abuse therapists find it so valuable, so
> insightful, so genuinely therapeutic, such a clear way of showing the
> psychology of an abuser. See the attached article by Lucia Willians, and
> note her references to the work of Sokhna Fall.
>
>
>
> Another way of looking at *Lolita* is in terms of content. It deals with
> things that we value so much, including desire and love and beauty, in ways
> that are outrageous. But it is the cost of having capacities for desire and
> love and an appetite for beauty that they *can* go wrong, and that’s what
> makes their not going wrong so precious, and why we should be attuned to
> false claims to these positives.
>
>
>
> Another way of looking at the *Lolita *problem is in terms of the
> challenge to readers, the benefit for readers. One of the most important
> things in human life is freedom, including freedom from manipulation, from
> unfair and false persuasion and pressure, and from oppression. Humbert
> tries to manipulate and pressure us as he has manipulated Lolita. We need
> to learn to resist. *Lolita* is the supreme exercise in literature of the
> challenge of reading against the character narrating. That’s partly a
> technical challenge for the author, and a “technical” and moral challenge
> for readers. Why would we want a fugitive and cloistered virtue?
>
> ​
>
>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU> on behalf of
> Eric NAIMAN <naiman@BERKELEY.EDU>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, 16 May 2018 8:12 a.m.
> *To:* NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> *Subject:* [NABOKV-L] Anne Dwyer on "Why I teach Lolita"
>
> For those of us who teach or admire *Lolita,* Anne Dwyer (Pomona College)
> has published an eloquent defense of the novel.
>
> *https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/05/14/teaching-lolita-still-appropriate-opinion
> <https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/05/14/teaching-lolita-still-appropriate-opinion>*
>
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