NABOKV-L post 0026555, Wed, 21 Oct 2015 23:20:35 -0400

BIB: On the name "Lolita"
Dear List,

In response to Jansy's recent post on the source of the nickname "Lolita,"
I wanted to mention my article in a special issue of the online journal
*Miranda*, "Lolita, I Presume: On a Character Entitled 'Lolita,'"
<> in which I concur with Jansy that this
name, in the novel at least, seems to be Humbert's own name for
Dolores--and one, in fact, that he uses almost entirely in his narration
and not in his actual interactions with her.

Here's the abstract:

This essay focuses on the problem of naming the heroine of Nabokov’s famous
novel. From the very beginning, her name is both overdetermined and
indeterminate. As the novel proceeds, she is designated by an increasing
number of diminutives, aliases, and misnomers, even as her own perspective
remains elusive. Humbert calls her by various names—for example, “Lo” at
home, “Dolly” with her friends and teachers, and “Dolly Schiller” after her
marriage—but reserves “Lolita” to signal her role in his fantasies and
memories. As a result, “Lolita” comes to represent not the novel’s heroine,
but rather her construction as a nymphet within Humbert’s imagination. How
she would choose to name herself is unclear—she signs her letter to
Humbert, for example, as “Dolly (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller)” (266)—but it
would certainly not be as “Lolita”. And yet, until very recently, reviewers
and critics always referred to her by Humbert’s pet name, as if there were
no difference between the actual child and her role in his fantasies—or,
indeed, her afterlife in his memoir. “Lolita” comes to represent not only
Humbert’s imaginary construction of a nymphet but also his desperate
attempts to make that construction permanent within his text. The fact that
most readers still refer to the novel’s heroine as “Lolita” suggests that
Humbert’s efforts have generally succeeded.


Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :