Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027789, Tue, 5 Jun 2018 19:35:25 +0000

Re: teaching Lolita
I teach at a smallish Christian liberal arts college, where one might expect to find an extra portion of resistance to Lolita, but this has not been my experience. I have taught it five or six times in the last 15 years, including a course a few years ago entirely devoted to it. This January I will be teaching another iteration of that course—technically a Critical Theory course but using Lolita as the main text. An odd irony may be that my students, being a bit more conservative than the average undergrad at State U, have proven well-equipped to fend off HH’s charms. At the same time, they are often unforgiving towards Lolita herself. As their guide, I try to complicate their natural moralistic tendencies as best I can, while also assuring them that it is okay to ENJOY the novel—to savor its delights—while still retaining one’s skepticism. Beyond the plot, we have a lot of fun discovering the historical context which gave birth to the novel, critical reactions, and Lolita’s pop cultural legacy (Amy Fisher, Lana Del Rey, etc). With the exception of a briefly raised eyebrow from a student’s father, I have not had one complaint. We’ll see if I can say that again come next spring.

Matt Roth

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