Brillinger, Matthew. Nabokov’s Humor: The Play of Consciousness. 2003

Bibliographic title
Nabokov’s Humor: The Play of Consciousness
Publication year

Vladimir Nabokov' s fiction, particularly in its later stages, is thoroughly and multifariously humorous, with individual works incorporating large numbers of jokes to tremendous effect, to the point that enjoyment of Nabokov 's art is to some extent indistinguishable from engagement with his humor. Why is Nabokov 's art so robustly funny? Humor theorists, in varied words and with differing degrees of forcefulness, posit humor as necessarily presenting a possibility - ontological, behavioral, circumstantial, or interpretative - unforeseen by its audience, as a joke introduces that audience to a surprising entity, action, event or viewpoint. Nabokov, experiencing his own world as ceaselessly surprising, consciously deploys humor as a means of underscoring for readers the infinite possibilities available at each moment, utilizing jokes in the countering of divers types of expectation. Nabokov 's use of humor emerges from a well-considered theory of humor, while also reflecting a singular metaphysics. This thesis, as it maps the relationship between Nabokov 's use and theory of humor, offers a rationale for much of the humor on offer in Nabokov' s art, accounting for that humor by reference not only to its effects and implications but also to its significance in the eyes of Nabokov himself.