Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002222, Sat, 5 Jul 1997 11:27:18 -0700

VN Bibliopgraphy: Lolita Landscape
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Dissertation Abstract.

"Beauty of Distance": A Study of the Landscape Descriptions
in Vladimir Nabokov's LOLITA"
Roy Catesby Flannagan III.
(Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. 1996)

Nabokov uses a European's evolving view of American landscape
imagery to depict Humbert's gradual moral regeneration in LOLITA. This
progression in both artistic vision and morality occurs in five major
stages. In the first, Naboov shows how Humbert's view of "nymphets" has
been shaped by the conventionality of European views and by his memory of
Annabel Lee that he tries to superimpose upon the present. The second
stage begins upon his arrival in America, where the vulgar philistinism,
the many simulations of identity, and the unconventional natural beauty of
America destabilized his European preconceptions of the country. Once he
finds Lolita, Humbert thinks he can use American materials to form a new
Eden, a pastoral enclosure for his "romance," but instead his imagery
revolts against him, showing how these imaginary ideals have hardened into
parody. The third stage occurs during Humbert and Lolitas' travels across
the United States, where he thinks he can use descriptions of the tourist
sites and roadside culture as a screen to mask his molestation of Lolita,
but the youth marketing, advertising, and tourism industry all provide an
ironic commentary on Humbert and Lolita's relationship. In the fourth
stage, when Humbert gradually loses Lolita to Quilty during their second
cross country trip, Nabokov draws upon his traditioin of writing semiotic
landscapes to show Humbert's paranoia and the instability of any one-sided
interpretation of his adopted country. The fifth and final stage occurs
five years after Humbert has lost Lolita, when both temporal and spatial
distance and his disinterested love for her allow him to see the American
landscape clearly for the first time.