Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027548, Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:59:59 -0700

New Find? re: Gradus ad Parnassus
I believe I’ve made a find – please correct me if I’m wrong. I was reading “Letters to Vera” and came across this mention of a book N bought:

Letter to Vera: 12/VI/26

“…two English books for fifty (pfennigs): Squire, Steps to Parnassus (literary parodies) and the renowned Henry James, The Outcry (a novel).

I know from the archives that, “Gradus ad Parnassus”, the classical text on prosody and counterpoint has been discussed. However, here Nabokov mentions “parodies”. It turns out that a book of literary parody by J.C. Squire was published in 1913, titled “Steps to Parnassus: and other parodies & diversions”. There is a chapter in the work with the same title that makes fun of young poets who plagiarise Sample:

“The masters of old time were greater than we; we can only get near to them by imitating them; and surely the most perfect form of imitation is literal transcription. There is no need to copy out whole poems as they stand. The corpus of English poetry is very large”.

The whole book is on line: https://archive.org/details/stepstoparnassus00squiiala

Pale Fire parodies literary plagiarism, commentary and criticism, “ fake thinkers, puffed up poets, frauds and sharks”. That would include, as I see it now, Carl Jung. However that does not change but merely substantiates my theory of Jung’s underlying presence.

Like many other tropes in the book, "Gradus ad Parnassus" thus has multiple layers of meaning, this one hinting at the underlying theme of parody. The classical text, of course, relates to the poetry. Then, we have the character "Gradus".

From my WIP: "Art, Alchemy and Failed Transcendence: Jungian Influences in Nabokov's Pale Fire":

The name “Gradus” no doubt references “Gradus ad Parnassus”, Latin for “Steps to Parnassus” and the title of several classic texts on prosody and counterpoint. Mt. Parnassus was the Greek abode of Apollo and the Muses, so the books were designed to be gradual steps to achieving the airy heights of poetry. Clearly, this suits Pale Fire, but how does it relate to the abysmal character Gradus?

The two peaks of Parnassus were the realms of the antithetical gods of enlightenment and irrationality: Lycoreia (sacred to Apollo and the Muses) and Tithorea (sacred to Dionysus). We learn that Gradus comes from a wine-making family, so, fittingly he is associated with the Dionysian mysteries and the abode of the occult and irrational.

Kinbote tells us that “gradual” Gradus began making progress (steps) towards “Arcady” from Zembla at the time that John Shade began his poem. Like the lessons in “Gradus ad Parnassus”, they proceed in counterpoint to a mutual destination. Where are they headed? For Tithorea or Lycoreia? Chaos or enlightenment? The depths or the heights?

It could be either. Jung claimed the eruption of shadow contents into consciousness might either lead to insanity or the first step towards Individuation. If the shadow contents are not feared, but brought to light and transmuted into the Self, then steps would be taken towards lofty Lycoreia.

In my suggested Jungian paradigm, it is up to the third counterpoint, Kinbote as Ego, who will determine the outcome.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L