Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026263, Thu, 2 Jul 2015 16:43:12 +0000

CFP Nabokov International Conference - Biarritz,
France - April 28-May 1, 2016

“Do the Senses Make Sense?”: The Five Senses
in Nabokov’s Work

Conference organized by the French Vladimir Nabokov Society

France April
28-May 1, 2016

After the 2013 Conference on “Nabokov and France” in
Paris, the Enchanted Researchers – The French Vladimir Nabokov Society invites
scholars to reflect upon the importance and significance of the Five Senses in
Nabokov’s work, poetics and aesthetics, for its next International Conference.
Keynotes Speakers are Brian Boyd (University of Auckland) and Maurice Couturier
(University of Nice).

The Conference will take place in Biarritz, France, a
place familiar to most of Nabokov’s readers, as he powerfully evoked the sea
resort—a popular vacation spot for White Russians until 1917—and its Grande Plage, on which he “found himself
digging, one day, side by side with a little French girl called Colette”, the
author’s “first love”. Biarritz was the place where Nabokov had one of his
first intense sensorial and emotional experiences, and offered many elements to
stimulate his perceptive and imaginative self: from the “rising, rotating mass
of foamy, green water” of the ocean to the sound of the Basque language, from
the salty breeze on his lips to the “deep, mealy sand” in which he dug, from
the “pistachio ice cream of a heavenly green” to the pine smell of the beach
cabin, his sensorial memories saturate the short story “First Love” (chapter
seven of Speak, Memory).

Senses make particular sense in Nabokov’s world, since
he was not only a trilingual writer, but also a man gifted with a spectacular visual,
auditory, gustatory, olfactory, tactile and kinetic memory. In addition,
Nabokov was a famous synaesthete, and therefore one should hardly attempt to
study the importance of one given sense without taking into account its
relation to the other ones. The knowledge brought by neuroscience and cognitive
science in the field of synaesthesia may therefore open up new perspectives for
researchers interested in that topic in Nabokov’s oeuvre.

The central importance of sensory modalities in
Nabokov’s work should also be related to his multilingualism, and his personal
history; since he came from an aristocratic family frequently travelling,
employing foreigners and having access to an amount of foreign products quite
exceptional when compared to their fellow Russian citizens, Nabokov’s senses
were constantly stimulated by new sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures
in his childhood. His acute sensory perceptions were then probably further
developed with the experiences brought by his émigré life throughout Europe and
the United States.

One may even wonder whether the very exercise of
putting sensible experience into words did not play a fundamental role in
shaping, nourishing and amplifying the richness and sharpness of Nabokov’s
sensory perceptions. Similarly, Nabokov’s entomological practice, which ruined
his eyesight, also had a significant (though paradoxical) impact on the
acuteness of his visual perception of detail and color, and probably on his
other modes of perception.

Considering that so far the key role of senses in
Nabokov’s work and aesthetics (keeping in mind that this very word stems for
the Greek word for senses) has not
been tackled on a large scale, this International Nabokov Conference offers to
be the first occasion for such academic reflections and exchanges to take
place, so that the Nabokovian scholarly community helps “senses make sense” in
his work.

Scholars are therefore invited to reflect upon the
impact of senses on Nabokov’s creative process, on his poetic and aesthetic
principles, and on his way of experiencing the world around him.

Proposals may include, but may not be limited to, the
following topics:

- senses and synaesthesia: questioning vision as the
potential key-sense; the recurring association of senses; synaesthesia in Nabokov’s

- senses and multilingualism: perceptions and
languages; the taste/sound of words depending on the language (see the
breakfast scene in Ada, I, 12);
senses in Nabokov’s translations/self-translations;

- senses and/in descriptions: how senses combine and
infuse descriptions with intense life-likelihood; the role of senses in
characterization; the importance of senses in narrators and focalizers;

- perceptions of alien worlds: Nabokov’s keen sense of
observation; the function of senses in satire and mockery;

- senses and language: the sensations of articulating
language (see the incipit of Lolita);
how foreign languages are perceived and described;

- senses and memory: sensory perceptions and the
mnemonic process/writing; senses in his autobiographical writings;

- senses and entomology: the sensory quality of
Nabokov’s entomological descriptions, of his inclusion of entomology in his
fictional writings; role of his lepidopterological practice in his aesthetics
and his perception of the world;

- senses and intermediality: the role of Nabokov’s
perception in his inclusion of works of art (painting, cinema, music,
theater…), or objects from popular culture around him (posters, songs, ads,
daily life products, food, perfumes…);

- senses and aesthetics: the sensual pleasures of
reading (the recurring “tingle in the spine” image); senses in Nabokov’s
teaching of literature; sensory perceptions in Nabokov’s aesthetic principles;

- senses and sensuality: senses and the texture of
desire; sensory perceptions in Nabokov’s erotic texts.

Papers can be given in either English or French. Conference proposals
of up to 300 words should be accompanied by a short biographical note and
should be sent to marie.bouchet@vladimir-nabokov.org
before October 1st, 2015.

Conference organizers:

Isabelle Poulin, Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne

Marie Bouchet, Université de Toulouse

Julie Loison-Charles, Université Lille III

Morgane Allain-Roussel, Université de Saint-Etienne

For more information consult www.vladimir-nabokov.org

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