Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020992, Sat, 20 Nov 2010 19:25:20 -0200

Re: Dead and living authors
James Twiggs: I intended no disrespect to Jansy in my post about Barthes. If my “surely not” came across that way, then of course I apologize. To look at the matter from a different angle, Barthes’ famous essay, with its even more famous title, didn’t appear in either French or English till several years after Pale Fire was published. It could not, therefore, have been an object of parody for VN. Stripped of the drama of the word “death” and of his broader philosophical and political aims, Barthes’ thesis has much in common with a key idea of American New Criticism. As Wimsatt and Beardsley put it in their paper on the intentional fallacy, published in 1946, a poem “is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it. The poem belongs to the public.” In other words, for all he can do about its fate, the author of a poem (or novel) might as well be dead the minute it falls into the hands of readers. Although I appreciate Simon Rowberry’s point, not even as vigilant and imposing a presence as VN could control the vast flow of conflicting readings that every work of any value is bound to provoke....Finally, Jansy may share my amusement that in 1992 Gilbert Adair published a novella called The Death of the Author, based apparently (I haven’t read it) on the rise and fall of the arch-deconstructionist Paul de Man. ...perhaps in creating the character of Kinbote, he was pulling the legs of such old-critic friends as Wilson and Levin....

Stephen Blackwell:"... I'd like to draw attention to a still earlier incarnation of the "Death of the Author" phenomenon. The 19th-Century French psychologist/philosopher/critic Hippolyte Taine produced what I believe was the primordial version of the author's death, in the modern sense, and a spirited rebuttal to Taine occupies a significant place in Iulii Aikhenvald's writings, especially in the theoretical introduction to Silhouettes of Russian Writers and some of the other essays. Aikhenvald (as many of you know, Nabokov's close friend in the 1920s) was a major early describer of the "reader's role" in shaping a literary work's ongoing form."

JM: No need to apologize! My commentary was totally sincere since I find it much easier to argue when statements are presented unambiguously. Thank you for informing us that Barthes' essay only appeared, either in French and English, "till several years after Pale Fire was published."
Stephen B. remembered the "earlier incarnation of the 'Death of the Autor' phenomenon... The 19th-Century ...Hippolyte Taine..." and I must confess that I was not following any specific text when I suggested this line of conjecture. My "challenge" emerged as the end-product of earlier readings of Flaubert's "Novembre," Foucault's 1966 "The Order of Things," Barthes and, of course, Lacan who stealthily shifted the focus from the "individual" to what he designated as "the subject". For me the views concerning the "death of the author" depend of the apprehension of his fundamental move from the "conscious authorial intention" practiced by an imaginary "ego," and what he ascribes to the the utterances of a " barred subject."
Actually, due to my lack of academic discipline, I was hoping to learn more from you at the Nab-L, as I now I look forward to Blackwell's "project on Aikhenvald ...with some information on Taine."

btw: Simon Rowberry's point, from what I understood it to mean, was not different from what you added as "not even as vigilant and imposing a presence as VN could control the vast..." Quoting him: "I believe it (PF) is the novel whose criticism has moved beyond the intentions of Nabokov the most within his canon because of the death of his authority in the novel, predominantly by writing a novel of such complexity with multiple characters in various fictional worlds. In Pale Fire, however, it can only be said that the death of the author leads to the birth of the re-reader."

PS: I tried to correct two misspelt words in my last posting, but came too late. I should have written "helices" and "arc"

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