Re: [Thoughts] Art's higher level - comments related to Matt
Matt Roth, in relation to my query "Did Nabokov employ incest in his novels as a deliberately romantic nuance?", offered various insights and brought up a new question after presenting his arguments: "So, do we think that Nabokov was drawing from, or replying to, this Romantic tradition, particularly in Ada?"
He writes: ".The sibling incest of Ada is of a very different character than the incest in Lolita and the later novels[ ] I recall that Don Johnson has a cogent essay on this topic as it relates to Ada [ ] The most helpful article I've read on this topic is by Peter Thorslev, "Incest as Romantic Symbol" (Comparative Literature Studies 2.1, 1965). Thorslev identifies three kinds of Romantic incest narratives: parent-child (with parent as aggressor), stepson-stepmother (the Don Carlos plot), and sibling.[ ] Thorslev argues that, "there is a very real sense in which the only love possible for the Romantic hero - for Chateaubriand's René, for the Byronic Hero as epitomized in Manfred, for Shelley's poet-hero in Alastor, Laon and Cythna or Epipsychidion - is an incestuous love. First, it symbolizes perfectly this hero's complete alienation from the society around him; and second, it symbolizes also what psychologically speaking we can call his narcissistic sensibility, or, more philosophically speaking, his predilection for solipsism."
Jansy Mello: Perhaps my first question is related to the hypothesis that Nabokov's writings endorsed this kind of "endogamic" ideal and found in its links with the Romantic movement an excellent literary outlet for it (independently of any parodic motion which might also be felt in VN's rendering)..We all know that the incest theme did not originate in literature with Shelley, Byron, or Chateaubriand, but it is as old as Sophocles.What most people don't know it that ever since Sophocles, more than a hundred authors took up parent/children incest as material for their poems, plays and novels.
In Peter Thorslev's presentation it seems that his idea is neatly circumscribed, as we find in the title "incest as a romantic symbol." There's no need to include Freud's works about the Oedipus Complex or when he cites Shakespeare's "Hamlet" as another dramatic presentation of this conflict. In his study about King Lear ("The theme of the three caskets"), he deals with one of the theories presented by Thorslev, namely " fathers, authorities, institutions, and traditions having outlived their usefulness, but being unwilling to grow old gracefully and wither away and even attempting grotesquely to renew their youth by devouring their young or by reproducing upon them." The Oedipal interpretation of King Lear can be found in Lawrence Olivier's rendering of the love between Lear and Cordelia. A novel "A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley in 1991 (also made into a movie) is inspired in Shakespeare's Lear and the oedipal vision is there, too..
So, it may comes as a surprise that, since Sophocles, innumerous plays were written about the father-mother-son conflicts. Humberto Haydt, a recently deceased Brazilian dramatist and poet, wrote a triolgy for the stage:: "Oedipus Rex", "Laio" and "Antigona.". He worked over thirty years collecting plays related to Sophocles's tragedy to get them translated into Portuguese (there was a shorter Anthology, edited in Portugal in the eighties, but equally stunning in the variety of authors it included). We find Jean Cocteau's commedy "La Machine Infernale" (a great read.) and Alain Robe-Grillet's novel "Les Gommes" also related to this theme..There are operatic settings by Igor Stravinsky and Carl Orff's "Der Tyrann". Among the Romantics and even before them, we have famous translations or plays by W.B.Yeats and Friedrich Hölderlin. There's Hugo von Hofmanstahl and, at least, sixty other authors whose names I cannot recollect, nor do I have enough physical strength to pick up several heavy tomes kept in my attic despite their unexplored richness. .
So... Nabokov may not have been simply replying to the Romantic tradition. Let's not forget his interest on fairy tales ( "Peau d'Ane" immediately springs to my mind, among a list of others which you once cited). The Romantics may have made from incest a "symbol" that, by being more explicit, made it also easier to work with and develop under a variety of plots and games. .
Search archive with Google:
Contact the Editors: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/