Lara Delage-Toriel (Strasbourg)

Bodies in Translation: Deriving Meaning from Motion in Nabokov‚s works

Much thought has been devoted to the intellectual, moral, spiritual, metaphysical and aesthetic dimensions of Nabokov‚s fictional world. Much less has been said about its actual physicality, in particular the eloquence of bodily motion, whether it be part of an externally codified system, as in dancing ˆ Œthe automaton‚s somnambulic languor‚ that becomes the law of Franz‚s existence as Martha teaches him to waltz in King Queen Knave ˆ or whether it be simply a spontaneous gesture, as in the case of Pnin, a Œveritable encyclopedia of Russian shrugs and shakes‚. The significance of the relationship between body and language in terms of boundaries and limits, both physical and cultural, first occurred to me when I linked Pnin‚s ŒRussian Œrelinquishing‚ gesture‚ ‘made in a moment of dramatic pathos ˆ to a note from Nabokov‚s translation of Eugene Onegin (VI, 13, ll. 4-5), in which the master wordsmith admits his incapacity to translate this particular element of the Russian idiom. His description of the gesture (which is totally lost in his translation) is however exhaustive and extremely minute, revealing a properly scientific degree of observation as Nabokov dwells on the body‚s language in slow motion (ŒIf analyzed in slow motion by the performer, he will see that his right hand...). Bodies in motion thus appear as a particularly significant means of transition within variously faceted semiotic systems, which may be correlated or contrasted and opposed. For instance, we may notice that whereas Pnin‚s gestures dramatize distance, the ŒJavanese-like gestures‚ made by Charlotte Haze induce suggestive comparison, as is made quite clear by Nabokov‚s directions in the screenplay of Lolita: Œthese gestures will be repeated by Dolly Schiller in last scene of play‚. These instances and reflexions are mere indications towards a paper that proposes to look at Nabokov‚s work from a fresh Œkinetic‚ angle bringing into perspective the specific impact of physical motion within the dynamic space of his fictional world and language.

Zoran Kuzmanovich (Davidson College)

 "Report[:] No Ghosts Walk" or "The Already Told is Bunched Up Again"'

 Conference papers ought to be provocative in diagnosis, utopian in scope, and performative in delivery. Knowing in advance that I will fall short of those three goals, the paper I propose here will treat dints of discourse devoted to the banal trope of a man haunted by the spectre of a dead woman he's known intimately as that trope makes its transit stops in the works of Poe ("Ligeia"), Kipling ("The Phantom Rickshaw"), and Nabokov ( from the "The Return of Chorb," to _Lolita_ and "The Vane Sisters").  The uncanny repetition of the much discussed but still cryptic stuff of Nabokov's spooks requires a second level to the paper: a meditation on the differences between a reading strategy that decides to do without the theological and puzzle-solving meaning and a strategy that sets out to recover, limit, and defend such a meaning through the invocation of Nabokov's always overdetermined ghostly presence. The second strategy seems to me to lead to a double-bind with serious consequences for any critic. Because Nabokov was already a self-annotator, dispenser of annotations, inventor of serial selves, notoriously generous provider of red herrings and cartographer of nerve points of which most readerly anatomies are innocent, reading Nabokov's fictions so as to unconceal inscribed otherworldly presences, anagram-loving phantoms, or the textualized landscape of St. Petersburg makes Nabokov live outside his writing space as a competitive phantom of one's reading while at the same time forcing one to confess one's own alienating distance from the Nabokov text, distance to which one's commentary can only serve as a monumental testament. The second consequence, and one I hope will have occurred only once in a thousand years of criticism, has to do with the tone of one's annotations or comments produced out of precisely such a double bind being read as acts of aggression towards both Nabokov and the critic's presumed audience.

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