This essay revises and expands my earlier view of Lolita (Nabokov Studies, Vol. 8 2004) as a feminist work that utilizes the 1950s scientific discourse of sexology to challenge Humbert’s exploitative use of mythic discourse. Building upon critical responses to my original article, I here use Bakhtin’s aesthetic and sociological conception of the dialogism of the novel to consider how Humbert attempts, but fails, at reducing the rich dialogism of the novel to a self-justifying monologue. The critical consequences of this irreducible dialogism extend beyond the confines of my original view of the novel as a feminist critique of misogynistic mythic discourse; ongoing attempts to place Lolita into an aesthetic, realistic, or ethical framework stifle the dialogism of the novel in a similar way as Humbert suppresses dialogue and dialogism about Lolita’s controversial sexuality. Nabokov’s novel synthesizes the moral, social, and aesthetic dimensions of dialogue and Bakhtinian dialogism, both for characters and critics alike, in its representation of Humbert’s failed monologue and of the critical voices speaking in as well as beyond the novel.
Can You Hear Me Now?: Monologue, Dialogue, and the Other Voices in Lolita’s Sexual History
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