NABOKV-L post 0022017, Tue, 20 Sep 2011 15:36:20 -0400

Re: [Fwd: Jane Austen's Ha-Ha in Nabokov's Ada]

If you're interested, I wrote a brief note on this subject a few
Nabokovians ago: "Incest and Intertext: Mansfield Park In Ada."
Nabokovian 61 (2008): 48-52. I missed the ha-ha connection, though!

On Sep 20, 2011, at 2:22 PM, Nabokv-L wrote:

> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Jane Austen's Ha-Ha in Nabokov's Ada
> Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 11:11:31 -0400
> From: <arnieperlstein@MYACC.NET>
> I have just read the beginning of Part 1, Ch. 3 of Ada, and I will not
> even attempt to interpret the dizzying prose there to you experienced
> Nabokovians, but I think I do have something to tell you about
> Nabokov's
> usage of the term "ha-ha" there insofar as it is, as was noted by
> Alexey,
> a thinly veiled allusion to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.
> I am away from the files I generated a few months ago when I first
> joined
> this listserv, but from what I recall, I had noticed a very
> interesting
> and striking parallelism between the incest theme in Mansfield Park
> (which, unbeknownst to most Janeites, is quite extensive and
> provocative)
> and the incest theme in Ada. Henry Crawford and Mary Crawford, Fanny
> Price
> and Edmund Bertram, Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas Bertram, the novel
> teems
> with illicit, even perverted, incestuous energy.
> And the Sotherton garden scene in Mansfield Park is one of the
> epicenters
> of that theme, and also of the theme of forbidden sex, in Austen's
> novel.
> And as to the "ha-ha" in that garden (of Edenic temptation), that ha-
> ha is
> a symbol of female sexuality (the terra incognita to be discovered
> by an
> adventurous man) but it is also a symbol of what I call the "shadow
> story"
> of Mansfield Park, i.e., the double story hidden beneath the overt
> story,
> which is not visible by normal observation, but which can only be seen
> when the observer is viewing the novel from a special, (ironically)
> skewed
> perspective, reading against the grain, as I explain more in this blog
> post:
> My gut feeling is that, whatever else Nabokov is doing in Ch. 3 of
> Part 1
> of Ada, he is suggesting that there is a giant "ha-ha" in Ada, a
> zone of
> concealed meaning which, however, can be perceived and understood if
> one
> takes the correct skewed perspective that is not taken by the ordinary
> reader.
> And it is also possible that Nabokov, thorough literary scholar that
> he
> obviously was, even was aware of Charlotte Bronte's playful word
> tricks in
> putting the super-serious Henry Lewes on about Jane Austen:
> Cheers, ARNIE
> P.S.: It is no coincidence that 21st century awareness of the
> pervasive
> sexual subtext in Austen's novels was triggered by the notoriety of an
> article (later expanded into a book) by Prof. Jill Heydt Stevenson
> entitled "Slipping into the Ha-Ha: Bawdy Humor and Body Politics in
> Jane
> Austen's Novels" in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 55, No. 3
> (Dec.,
> 2000), pp. 309-339
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Rachel Trousdale
Associate Professor of English
Agnes Scott College
(404) 471-6209

We must have the courage of our peculiarities.
—Marianne Moore

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