Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020318, Wed, 14 Jul 2010 10:22:37 -0400

Re: [NABOKOV-L] Michael Maar's "Speak,Nabokov"
Maar uses the medusa metaphor in two ways, the latter of which bears some
resemblance to Freud's conception, as I understand it. The first kind of
medusa experience is as you've described it, a feeling of oneness with the
universe, a sense of perfect purpose and order (the universe filtered
through the individual, as light through a jellyfish). But Maar's point is
that in VN's books, this "shimmer" doesn't last and is replaced by the
Medusa experience, "the connection between the self and the world has been
severed" (8). Maar doesn't mention it, but I think of John Shade's fits
where he feels distributed through time and space, but then reawakens with a
sense of shame and disgust. He gives several other examples.

As an aside, I have noticed a similar effect used repeatedly in Anna
Karenina, which I've been reading this summer--the moment of clear
perception, quickly followed by the scales falling from the disillusioned
person's eyes. Is this a particular feature of Russian lit in general, or
just in Tolstoy and VN?


JM: What I find strange in Maar's title and Banville's commentary about the
"Medusa" theme is that although both mention Freud and his work "The
Uncanny" (Das Unheimliche)*, they fail to mention Freud's "The Medusa head"
(1922/1940, Das Medusenhaupt). Maar's conceptualization couldn't be more
distant from Freud's remarks ( for Maar speaks of "harmony with the
universe" and "pantheistic bliss'!!!) The quote from TOoL he selects from
Maar and expands, adds another strange slant to his comments:
"What is most striking,” Maar writes, “is not even that Lolita has
forerunners—it’s that she has successors.” ... “There is, there was, only
one girl in my life, an object of terror and tenderness[...]…” Thus Phillip
Wild, “Lecturer in Experimental Psychology, University of Ganglia,” stoutly
confesses in The Original of Laura... And what about this passage, in which
Wild in a dream encounters Aurora Lee, a revenant from Poe via Lolita?

"I lifted the hem of your dress—something I never had done in the past—and
stroked, moulded, pinched ever so softly your pale prominent nates, while
you stood perfectly still as if considering new possibilities of power and
pleasure and interior decoration. At the height of your guarded ecstasy I
thrust my cupped hand from behind between your consenting thighs and felt
the sweat-stuck folds of a long scrotum and then, further in front, the
droop of a short member."

From the wikipedia: "Freud argues that decapitation equals castration. The
terror of Medusa is thus a terror of castration that is linked to the sight
of something. Numerous analyses have made us familiar with the occasion for
this: it occurs when a boy, who has hitherto been unwilling to believe the
threat of castration, catches sight of the female genitals, probably those
of an adult, surrounded by hair, and essentially those of his mother...If
Medusa's head takes the place of a representation of the female genitals, or
rather if it isolates their horrifying effects from the pleasure-giving
ones, it may be recalled that displaying the genitals is familiar in other
connections as an apotropaic act. What arouses horror in oneself will
produce that same effect upon the enemy against whom one is seeking to
defend oneself. We read in Rabelais of how the Devil took to flight when the
woman showed her vulva."

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