NABOKV-L post 0002668, Wed, 24 Dec 1997 16:28:19 -0800

Re: MLA 1997: Abstracts for the "Varia" session
1. "Lolita of the Limberlost" - D. Barton Johnson

A light-hearted look at Lolita as a Hoosier. I argue that Lolita
may well have been born in Indiana (my home state) and that Gene
Stratton-Porter's 1911 bestseller "Girl of the Limberlost" reverberates in
VN's novel. Stratton-Porter's treachly novel for teenaged girls stars a
homespun heroine who makes her way to better things by catching and selling moths
from the famed Limberlost Swamp. Humbert presents the novel to Lo on her
13th birthday. Also revealed is how a 50-year-old Russian intellectual
came to know of Stratton-Porter's humble tale.

2. "Possible Worlds Theory and Nabokov's Novels) -- Cary Henson

In its modern formulation, possible worlds theory (PWT) is an approach
developed by modern analytic philosophers concerned with the logico-semantic
aspects of modal systems. Some of the issues of primary importance in this
area include the modal status of worlds not obtaining in the actual world,
accessibility relations between such possible worlds and the actual world,
the nature of counterfactual discourse, and the instantiation of objects and
individuals within or across worlds. While these philosophies are
characterized by complex analyses of modal systems and are often grounded in
the specialized language of quantified modal logic, possible worlds theory
has long been seen to have significant applications outside its own sphere,
even by its own practitioners. As Michael Loux notes in his introduction to
the collection of essays _The Possible and the Actual_, "...the fact is
that reflection on some of our most deep-seated intuitions suggests that the
appeal to possible worlds is nothing more than a formalization of generally
held prephilosophical views about matters modal. All (or at least most) of
us think that things might have gone otherwise, that there are different
ways things might have been . . . " (30).

Not surprisingly, given the longstanding use of the "world" metaphor to
describe narratives, literary studies has adapted many of the concepts from
PWT to explore a variety of issues, such as the question of fictionality as
such, typologies of fictional worlds, the status of fictional characters
(their "existence", transworld identity, etc.), and others. Some of the key
theorists in this field include Thomas Pavel, Lubomir Dolezel, Ruth Ronen,
Marie-Laure Ryan, and Kendall Walton. However, as recently as 1992, Ryan
observed the disparity between the relative wealth of theoretical
discussions of possible worlds in literature and the lack of practical,
extended applications of these insights with respect to particular authors
and works. It seems to me that the novels of Vladimir Nabokov present an
ideal opportunity to take up this challenge. Virtually all of his novels
serve up a wealth of complex relations resulting from the proliferation of
fictional worlds within each textual universe, making them in many ways
perfectly suited to the PWT approach.

Following a brief discussion of the developments referred to above, I
demonstrate, using _Pale Fire_ as an example, the ways in which PWT can
provide a productive framework for engaging Nabokov's fictional worlds and
can help to clarify, with the heuristic assistance of modal analysis, such
questions as, "How is that we are able to say that Zembla is 'fantasy' and
New Wye fictionally 'real'?", and, "On what fictional levels do Kinbote,
Shade, and Botkin reside?" I focus in particular on couple of concepts that
I see as especially relevant to negotiating VN's worlds: Ryan's theory of
fictional recentering (and the consequent insights into the modal system of
narrative universes) and Walton's use of the idea "make-believe" to describe
the reader's fictional experience. I situate this discussion with reference
to some of the major readings of _Pale Fire_ in Nabokov scholarship
(Alexandrov, Boyd, Johnson).

My aim, then, is both to provide an overview of the development of possible
worlds theory in its application to literary studies and to stimulate
further consideration of these issues as they relate to Nabokov's novels,
using _Pale Fire_ as a case study. I shall be providing an extensive
bibliography on PWT for those interested.

3. "Editing Nabokov at the _New Yorker_: The Letters of VN and William
Maxwell" - Barbara Burkhardt

The correspondence between VN and William Maxwell, the writer';s
editor at the _New Yorker_ from the mid-fifties to 1977, provides new
insight into Nabokov's views about his fiction, his opinions about his
publiscation, as well as the way he responded to editing suggested for suc
works as "Ultima Thule", _Pale Fire_, and _The Defense_. Mypaper will
examine this writer-editor relationship and the effect it had on VN's
writing, as well as focus specifically on how the two men -- with input
from general magazine editor, William Shawn -- negotiated fine points of
Nabokov's work prior to its appearance in the magaizne.
Because Nabokov had a first-reading agreement with _The New
Yorker, Maxwell read all of his workincluding novels, short stories, and
poetry -- both his literature written in English and that translated from
the Russian by Dmitri Nabokokv. The interchanges between them reveal the
author's impecable attention to fine points of both English and Russian,
his rationale for choosing particular words and images, as well as
Maxwell's reactions and guidance.
My presentation will rely primarilly on unpublished letters,
galley questions proposed by Maxwell and Shawn, Nabokov's responses,
interoffice _New Yorker_ communications, and my own extensive interviews
with Maxwell.

4. "NABOKOV AND COMIC ART" -- Gavriel Shapiro

The paper focuses on Nabokov's fascination with comic art forms--caricature,
cartoon, and comic strip. The paper discusses and attempts to unravel
concrete examples of comic art described in Nabokov's works, such as Drugie
berega, Bend Sinister, and Pnin. At the same time, the paper looks at
Nabokov's own verbal application of comic art devices in works, such as
Kamera-obscura, "Cloud, Castle, Lake," The Gift, and The RLSK. The paper is
accompanied with slides.