NABOKV-L post 0005811, Sun, 11 Mar 2001 21:10:10 -0800

Subject
Re: Rosebud (fwd)
Date
Body
From: Kurt Johnson <johnsonmejias@msn.com>

Re this thread concerning evolution/creationism and Nabokov's having doubted natural selection could tell the whole story, one has to be careful again about historical context. Nabokov doubted that natural selection, as articulated before or at just about the infancy of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis (and absent population genetics at that) could tell the whole story. Indeed it couldn't. This does not mean that we can either know what Nabokov would have thought of natural selection, with the modern synthesis in place, but it also does not mean we can make him a "blanket" anti-selectionist given what is known today. I am making some effort to work toward historically contextualizing Nabokov's science, particularly elucidating "mainstream" scientists of his day whose fews didn't differ much from his. This contextualizing has seemed a major need since the centenary books on Nabokov's science. My MLA paper, which is contemplated to appear in a future Nabokov Studies, went some of the distance, but, another paper I am preparing for the ALA in May: "Lepidoptera, Evolutionary Science, and Nabokov's Harvard Years: More Light, More Context" can hopefully go yet another. I'm learning a lot as I research this paper myself. There are some real "red herrings" out there when it comes to these questions of Nabokov and selection and Nabokov and mimicry. Well, we all learn as we go.

Kurt Johnson



----- Original Message -----
From: Galya Diment
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2001 9:24 AM
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)


From: Jennifer Parsons <jdparsons@home.com>

Galya, I think you have hit on something with the 'creationist vs
evolutionist' analogy to VN's apparent "influence denial", where you say
you think VN "was afraid that others might believe that ... influences
"'could tell the whole story.'"

I have been musing, while reading this thread, that I don't think VN did
completely deny "influences" at all but balked, rather, at what he must
have believed to be his interviewers' definition of same - ie to mean
perhaps some gross sort of conscious style/theme-aping.

In Strong Opinions, in fact, he said, when probed about influences:
"Every Russian writer owes something to Gogol, Pushkin, and Shakespeare.
Some Russian writers, as for example Pushkin and Gogol, were influenced
by Byron and Sterne in French translation." 'Being influenced' then,
was apparently good enough for Pushkin and Gogol to whom "all Russian
writers" - including VN - "owe something". In another interview, when
probed "What about other influences - Pushkin?" - VN responded "In a
way - no more than, say, Tolstoy or Turgenev were influenced by the
pride and purity of Pushkin's art."

By this sort of influence, I expect, VN meant something very much like
the ghostly electricity at work in artistic inspiration that Brian Boyd
elucidates in one of his theories re Hamlet in NABOKOV'S PALE FIRE - the
sparks shooting off Shakespeare, for example, from bedside lamp or
whatever that was - that help to ignite inspiration in other writers.


Galya Diment wrote:
>
> From: Rodney Welch <rodney41@mindspring.com>
>
> I don't know that influence-spotting is all that illuminating, but it is
> necessary when the artist in question claims no influences at all.
>
> Rodney Welch
> Columbia, SC
>
> ** It strikes to me that this argument -- influences versus no influences
> -- is not unlike the debate about evolution versus creationism. Nabokov
> professed to believe that he was created from the very start as a
> ready-made Artist, or, at the very least, a ready-made cocoon of an
> Artist. But then his ideas about evolution were also quite unorthodox,
> as Bob Pyle, among others, points out. In his Introduction to _Nabokov's
> Butterflies_, Pyle writes: "Not that he was a creationist by any
> stretch... [b]ut he doubted that Darwinian selection could tell the
> whole story" (64). Just how much of a true creationist he, indeed, was
> in the case of influences we will never know but it is quite likely
> that VN had a tendency to exaggerate his contrarian claims precisely
> because he was afraid that others might believe that, like evolution,
> influences "could tell the whole story." GD***
>
> > From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> > Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> > Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 16:40:23 -0800
> > To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> > Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)
> >
> > From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
> >
> > I meant to include Proust, but it was past my bedtime. The phrase should
> > have read "Some of the major influences were Shakespeare, Milton,
> > Browning, Flaubert, and Pushkin." I think what is arguable is the
> > necessity of seeking "influences" for understanding an artist. The problem
> > I have is that we seem to be saying that "If A hadn't written, B wouldn't
> > have either." or that "A did something in a particular way because B had."
> > and I am not sure those are valid conclusions. At any rate, I am not sure
> > it adds anything to our picture of the work of art.
> >
> > On Sat, 10 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
> >
> >> ** I believe Kiran Krishna probably meant "Gogol and, of course, Pushkin"
> >> but he will clarify it himself, of course. For my own part, I find it
> >> somewhat odd that we are seriously discussing the possibility that any
> >> writer, including Nabokov, could possibly escape the influence of others,
> >> especially those who were writing before him and whose books, of course,
> >> shaped his/her sensibilities as a child or a young person. The case with
> >> writers who were writing at the same time should be harder to assume
> >> because it does not quite work the same way but even there, when a writer
> >> reads another writer, the process is of course similar to any craftsman
> >> observing another craftsman's work and looking for elements he/she can
> >> successfully introduce into one's own art. This is what being a true
> >> professional is all about -- and Nabokov was obviously that. GD**
> >>
> >> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
> >>
> >> I think influences can be easily exaggerated ('Without Flaubert there
> >> would have been no Marcel Proust in France, no James Joyce in Ireland.
> >> Chekhov in Russia would not have been quite Chekhov'), but the strongest
> >> 'influences' on VN were, I believe, Browning, Flaubert, Pushkin and, of
> >> course, Pushkin. I don't think VN maintained that he was totally without
> >> precursors, but what he did (legitimately) protest against was
> >> influence-mongering for its own sake. Interestingly enough (One thinks of
> >> Borges), this works both ways: I cannot read (say) 'Porphyria's Lover',
> >> 'Pippa Passes', or 'Andrea Del Sarto' (with its wonderful tint of
> >> silver-gray) without thinking of VN, especially since in my own journey,
> >> Browning came a long time after Lolita. Similiarly, I cannot read Thomas
> >> Browne's 'Urn Burial' without thinking of (the disappointingly
> >> underestimated) De Quincey. Pleasant as those associations are, I am
> >> sceptical regarding how much they have to offer by way of understanding.
> >>
> >> On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
> >>
> >>> From: Rodney Welch <rodney41@mindspring.com>
> >>>
> >>> Since reading Proust, I've found it hard to believe that Nabokov was totally
> >>> invulnerable to influence. I don't know if "Lolita" could have been created
> >>> by someone who had not read Proust, and not just because of the allusions;
> >>> it's hard for me to read "Lolita" without sensing distant echoes of
> >>> Albertine, Gilberte, et al. The same goes for Nabokov's first novel, "Mary."
> >>> Indeed, "In Search of Lost Time" could serve as a title for "Lolita" had it
> >>> not already been taken. Aren't both novels testaments to the recreative and
> >>> inventive possibilities of memory?
> >>>
> >>> I don't think that there is a "Citizen Kane" connection with "Lolita,"
> >>> except in one rather obscure coincidental sense: the rose/vagina connection.
> >>> "Rosebud," as most fans of the Welles film know, was a bit of a dirty trick
> >>> on the part of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, since he had known Kane's
> >>> model, William Randolph Hearst, personally, and knew that "Rosebud" was his
> >>> pet name for the pudenda of his lover, the actress Marion Davies.
> >>>
> >>> Dolores Haze, too, is constantly connected with the image of a rose --
> >>> beautiful but temporary -- and Humbert refers to her pubis as her "brown
> >>> rose."
> >>>
> >>> This is not, however, an uncommon literary image, and I doubt one had much
> >>> to do with the other.
> >>>
> >>> Rodney Welch
> >>> Columbia, SC
> >>>
> >>>> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> >>>> Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> >>>> Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:27:19 -0800
> >>>> To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> >>>> Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)
> >>>>
> >>>> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
> >>>>
> >>>> I usually accept Nabokov's insistent denials of influence (Ignoring them
> >>>> has led to some rather dreadful errors in the past: Someone's - Her name
> >>>> escapes me - essay on Kafka comes to mind; Influence, as Appel
> >>>> acknowledges, is a troublesome question), and I agree that there is no
> >>>> reason to doubt his denial. However, I hadn't read the book since I
> >>>> couldn't find it at our library, and I presumed that it was no different
> >>>> from the essay. Still, as with Stravinsky, there are some interesting
> >>>> similarities.
> >>>>
> >>>> On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>>> From: Brian Walter <bdwalter@artsci.wustl.edu>
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Appel's essay "Nabokov's Dark Cinema" may not mention Welles, but his book
> >>>>> *Nabokov's Dark Cinema* (OUP, 1974) certainly does. Appel does in fact
> >>>>> verify that Nabokov loved *Citizen Kane*; apparently, Nabokov described it
> >>>>> as "Extraordinary! A masterpiece" (p. 57). Appel even asks Nabokov about
> >>>>> the famous "'Rosebud' ending," which Welles labeled "dollar-book Freud";
> >>>>> by
> >>>>> way of reply, Nabokov apparently "shrugged his shoulders, and the
> >>>>> conversation turned to soccer" (57-8).
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Unfortunately for this line of inquiry, the same passage has Nabokov
> >>>>> rejecting any possibility of influence or allusion, as he informed Appel
> >>>>> that he had seen *Citizen Kane* only in 1972, on Swiss television (57).
> >>>>> It's probably a good idea to take any of Nabokov's insistent denials of
> >>>>> influence or allusion with a grain of salt (apart from Freud, few things
> >>>>> seem to have sparked Nabokov's competitive zeal more readily than a
> >>>>> suggestion that he was not self-engendered as a writer, one who
> >>>>> effectively
> >>>>> skipped the gestation of apprenticeship and imitation that so many other
> >>>>> artists acknowledge; see, for instance, just about any interview in
> >>>>> *Strong
> >>>>> Opinions*). But in this case, there seems no reason not to take Nabokov
> >>>>> at
> >>>>> his word.
> >>>>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>> ----- Original Message -----
> >>>>> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> >>>>> To: <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> >>>>> Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 10:40 AM
> >>>>> Subject: Rosebud (fwd)
> >>>>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>> From: Kiran Krishna <kiran@Physics.usyd.edu.au>
> >>>>>
> >>>>> It just occured to me that in the following sentence (Part 1, Chapter 7,
> >>>>> Page 23 in the annotated edition):
> >>>>>
> >>>>> "Next day, an asthmatic woman, coarsely painted, garrulous, garlicky, with
> >>>>> an almost farcical Provencal accent and a black mustache above a purple
> >>>>> lip, took me to what was her own domicile, and there, after explosively
> >>>>> kissing the bunched tips of her fat fingers to signify the delectable
> >>>>> rosebud quality of her merchandise, she theatrically drew aside a curtain
> >>>>> to reveal what I judged was that part of the room where a large and
> >>>>> unfastidious family usually slept."
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Rosebud could be interpreted as a reference to Orson Welles' Citizen
> >>>>> Kane. Of course, allusions cannot really be discerned from single words,
> >>>>> but Welles, like a number of other great artists, has a fascination with
> >>>>> vulgarity (though in Citizen Kane, the vulgarity is closer to kitsch
> >>>>> than poshlost'). Ada (especially Dan Veen, the dream chapter - Part 2,
> >>>>> Chapter 3, and the dozen elderly townsmen of Part 1, Chapter 39, which
> >>>>> reminds me of the dozen vacationers in the west wing of Xanadu) suggests
> >>>>> Citizen Kane much more strongly. However, I find that Appel's essay (which
> >>>>> among other things is remarkable for its appreciation of Stravinsky's
> >>>>> Oedipus Rex), 'Nabokov's Dark Cinema' (collected, if you cannot find it by
> >>>>> itself, in 'The Bitter Air of Exile') makes no mention at all of Welles,
> >>>>> and neither, I notice, does Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Still, I
> >>>>> think it would be a fascinating area of research, and would be delighted
> >>>>> to hear other views on this subject.
> >>>>>
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>> Cheers!
> >>>> yours
> >>>> Kiran
> >>>>
> >>>> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
> >>>> - Vladimir Nabokov
> >>>>
> >>>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
> >>>>
> >>>> http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy
> >>>
> >>
> >> Cheers!
> >> yours
> >> Kiran
> >>
> >> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
> >> -Vladimir Nabokov
> >>
> >> http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
> >>
> >> http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy
> >>
> >
> > Cheers!
> > yours
> > Kiran
> >
> > "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
> > -Vladimir Nabokov
> >
> > http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~kiran
> >
> > http://www.physics.usyd.edu/hienergy<br clear=all><hr>Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at <a href="http://explorer.msn.com">http://explorer.msn.com</a><br></p>