NABOKV-L post 0022021, Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:08:34 -0300

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Re: [Fwd: Jane Austen's Ha-Ha in Nabokov's Ada]
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Rachel Trousdale: 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! [A.P:"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 ]

JM: What a marvellous opportunity to be directed to Trousdale's "Incest and Intertext...," in The Nabokovian, after Alexei's initial push towards Brian Boyd's "ha-ha" and their ramifications and overinterpretations. Rachel Trousdale's text is an example of elegant scholarly discipline, when it respects both writers and readers by accepting the boundaries, even those of a horticultural ha-ha, that help to establish different critical apparatuses, and the sceneries they provide, in their own right. She successfully evaluates Nabokov's allusion to Jane Austen and his critique of literary allusions and of "the inward turning of literary traditions"*. (Thank you for having extended your invitation to the N-List!)

Opening lines:"In his notes to Ada, Brian Boyd identifies a series of references to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (1814). Some of these references are direct (...);some less direct(...); and some quite covert: Marina's warning to Van that "cousinage dangereux voisinage" (232) echoes Sir Thomas Bertram's concern early in Mansfield Park (...) Nabokov, who taught Manfield Park in his European literature course at Cornell, clearly treats the love of Fanny Price for her cousin Edmund as a precedent for Ada's story of a love between cousin/siblings. But what kind of a precedent is it?"

Closing lines: "Readers will see through this move, however, since unlike Fanny and Edmund, Van and Ada really are brother and sister. Instead of legitimizing their relationship, then, the allusions to Austen undermine Van's argument for the sublimity of his love for Ada. More peculiarly, through its overt and somewhat awkward insertion into the text, the Austen theme links the notion of incest to literary allusion itself (Don Barton Johnson notes similar linkings of incest to allusion in Ada's treatment of Byron, Chateaubriand, and Pushkin.[...] Van and Ada's treatment of Mansfield Park as providing both a setting and a precedent for their romance seems to suggest that literary allusions, too, can be a dangereux voisinage, rendered both attractive and perilous - and possibly sterile - by virtue of their familiarity. Manfield's Park privileging of the familiar over the new love becomes, in Ada, a hidden critique both of the protagonists and of the inward turning of literary traditions."

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* - It is my impression that, at present, some of the critical or literary uses of psychoanalytic ideas fail to distinguish a writer's perverse fantasies - as they are legitimately cultivated in his literary work in the light of different cultural mores and censorship - from the pathological acting out of these same fantasies (should that happen as it does in an overinterpretation) to better distort or corrupt a readers's views and as a critic's way to assert an assumed authority over divergent opinions.

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