NABOKV-L post 0019227, Sun, 24 Jan 2010 15:46:21 -0200

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Re: THOUGHTS on the Pale Fire poem--response to Friedman
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James Twiggs (to J.Friedman):"If the otherworld model is the dominant paradigm, then it follows that you're not the only member of what clearly seems to be a "school."*

JM: I'll trust Jim's tolerance on "otherwordly" classificatory matters, because I don't think anyone can read Nabokov and ignore his "intimations of immortality," present even while he was opposing certain evolutionary theories in the field of science.
More than any "otherworld" school, it's Nabokov's emphasis on the sense obtained through pattern and morphology that which, in literature, places him among the late modernist writers, not with the postmodernists** (as if he'd care about that!).
One doesn't have to adhere to VN's beliefs, to dwell in the parallel universes his texts promote. Nor is it necessary to belong to either group when one accepts VN's dominant paradigm, nor to any other "school."

There's one mathematician which I learned to appreciate (but not to fully understand) through psychoanalysis, when Wilfred Bion borrowed from him the "selected fact" and a new definition for "caesura" (artificial, spacial or temporal, interruptions of what, from a distance, forms a continuous flow). Henri Poincaré brings fascinating developments for "gaps" and " newtonian causality" and, quite often, when reading S.Blackwell's exposition about Nabokov's research with butterflies, I was reminded of Poincaré and... John Shade. To further develop this line of inquiry ( if it is justified by any VN bibliographical corroboration) only mathematicians will do...

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* other excerpts from JT's posting:
"As for your question about a school of “otherworlders,” I refer you to Don Johnson’s and Brian Boyd’s “Prologue: The Otherworld,” in Nabokov’s World, Vol. 1: The Shape of Nabokov’s World (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002), in which Johnson provides an overview of the history of Nabokov criticism. What I meant by “otherworlders” is summed up by Johnson as follows: "Much of Nabokov’s work is best understood ...Death is, speculatively, merely the dividing line between levels of consciousness...the basic conceptual categories underlying most, if not all of Nabokov’s work. Much of the technical virtuosity in Nabokov’s work is in aid of hinting at this relationship between dimensions..." ... I’m not drawn to this approach to my favorite Nabokov books, and I'm especially suspicious of its application to Pale Fire--in part because the novel is so overtly about these very matters. I was therefore gratified when Johnson goes on to say that "My present discomfort stems from the thought that this dominant critical paradigm discourages critics and readers from attending to the very concrete details that constitute the basis of Nabokov’s stature as an artist...Would acknowledging such assumptions significantly diminish our delight? Would Nabokov be less the consummate artist? Apart from whatever heuristic value they may have, our reigning paradigms should be regarded with scepticism, lest they deflect attention from the area of Nabokov’s greatest originality--the brilliance of his style and wit." ... most of what he [Boyd] has presented as Nabokov's "deep" side is indeed shopworn, and was shopworn long before Nabokov came on the scene. As Boyd has described it in the pages I've read by him, the "philosophy" is a hodgepodge of familiar ideas--a bit of Ancient Wisdom here (Gnosticism, neo-Platonism, etc.), a spot of pseudo-science there (Blavatsky, Steiner, Dunne, Ouspensky, et al.), pretty standard intimations of immortality and nature mysticism, and some ideas about design that have been around for a very long while."

** While googling for the original Russian designation for "hereafter" I serendipitously encountered a pertinent paper, written in 1995, about a "(post)modern Nabokov." (Herbert Grabes: A Prize for the (Post-)Modernist Nabokov) in which Grabes sustains that VN's "Moebius-strip structure concerning authorship can also be seen as a further ironical comment on the ineradicable metaphysical presumptions concerning art, the inveterate attempt to interpret the artistic 'game of words' as a 'game of worlds' in an ontological sense. Against this modernist stance Nabokov quite clearly posited the postmodern one: that, like the despicable Humbert Humbert, he has “only words to play with,” but then he adds that "the very fact that he is throughout his work concerned with a subject like this proves how removed he is from the postmodern agenda, within which metaphysical questions are anathema." For him John Shade is aware of "the conjunction of pattern-generating coincidences, a much more significant trait of Nabokovian writing...that through artistic pattern-making [Shade] can 'see the web of the world, and the warp and the weft of that web” while "we know from the works of Proust and Joyce and Virginia Woolf, such pattern-making is a distinct feature of modernist fiction, a last-ditch attempt to signify the unity of consciousness in face of the chaotic swarm of sensations and impressions."



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