Call for Papers: Nabokov and Cinema Symposium (Paris, December 3-4, 2020)

Submitted by Stanislav_Shvabrin on Thu, 04/30/2020 - 12:54

Although connections between cinema and Nabokov have been occasionally explored by scholars, no symposium has ever tackled the role that cinema plays in Nabokov’s work or the dialogic relation that exists between them. 

However, the links between cinema and Nabokov’s œuvre are worthy of study, especially when one knows that as early as the 1920s Nabokov criticized cinema as a product of mass culture despite himself having worked as an extra in German movies. What kinds of relationships are there between Nabokov and cinema? Is it a matter of influence or referentiality? To what extent does his whole work bear the traces of Nabokov’s musing on the nature of the seventh art? As for cinema, how does it appropriate such an eminently literary œuvre? Isn’t it possible to read Nabokov’s famous 1962 quote “I don’t think in any language, I think in images” as an invitation to compare and contrast the language of literature and that of cinema?

This international symposium aims at launching a transdisciplinary, intermedial reflection on those questions. Some of the directions could include, but are not limited to, the following: 

1/ examining the presence of cinema in Nabokov’s work as ambivalent themes or patterns (for example its attraction-repulsion effect on fictional characters who are often obsessed with cinema), as intersemiotic allusions or as metaphor. One could in particular look at the way it reflects a certain culture (Russian, German, American…) or an anti-culture (by linking it to the poshlost’ of which Nabokov was so critical).

2/ shedding light on some of the Nabokovian literary devices and on how they allow the use of expressions such as “cinematic” or “cinematographic” writing (this is what Nabokov intended to do when he wrote Kamera Obscura). One could also reflect upon his use of perspective effects or editing effects that one can detect in his work, or on the linguistic devices that give Nabokov’s writing a cinematic dimension (in Russian, one could think of his use of aspects). The Formalist movement and their production could also be an inspiration, to the point at which one could ask if this dimension does not constitute one of the main characteristics of literature in the 20th century (especially when compared to Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel for example). 

3/ looking into Nabokov’s work experience in cinema, or the scenarios he worked on, especially the script he wrote for Kubrick’s Lolita

4/ analyzing the movies that were inspired by Nabokov’s novels, especially by studying the notions of adaptation and intersemiotic translation. Those movies could include the famous masterpieces by Kubrick (Lolita, 1962) or Fassbinder (Despair, 1978), but also some less known pieces, be they short or feature films, for example: La Défense Loujine (Marleen Gorris, 2001), Machenka (John Goldschmidt, 1987), Masha (Tamara Pavlyuchenko, 1991), La Méprise (Fassbinder, 1978), Roi, dame, valet(Skolimowski, 1972), Rire dans la nuit (Tony Richardson, 1969), Lolita (Lyne, 1997).

This symposium will tackle Nabokov’s work as well as that of movie directors who come from different countries and various aesthetic backgrounds. In that sense, it concentrates on two thematics of the research centre UMR Eur’Orbem: “Popular culture and scholarly culture” and “Arts and Transculturality”. 

Proposals of no more than 300 words, in French, English or Russian, with a short bio-bibliographical note, should be emailed to the organizers before September 5th, 2020.

Organization / contact :

Sophie BERNARD-LÉGER (CIRRUS – Eur’ORBEM, Société française Vladimir Nabokov)

Daria SINICHKINA (CIRRUS – Eur’ORBEM, Société française Vladimir Nabokov)