Subject: Delage-Toriel dissertation: "Ultra Violet DArlings. Representations of
     Women in Nabokov's Prose Fiction"
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 10:42:16 -0700
From: "D. Barton Johnson" <>
Organization: International Nabokov Society
To: vn <>

EDITOR's NOTE. Although one of the reasons for writing a dissertation is to get a job, its prime function is to present new knowledge or interpretations about its topic for other interested parties. NABOKV-L urges all Nabokovians to inform their colleagues of their research and publications. Professional recognition depends on making others aware of your work so they may draw on it.  NABOKV-L particularly thanks Barbara Wyllie and Lara Delage for their dissertation abstracts.

        "Lara Delage" <>

 In the wake of Barbara Wyllie’s initiative, I am posting a synopsis of 
my PhD dissertation, which was submitted in Cambridge last January. The 
synopsis was written for academic purposes and may not convey, in its 
assertiveness, the nuances in my thesis.

Ultraviolet Darlings
Representations of Women in Nabokov's Prose Fiction

Lara Delage-Toriel

This study proposes to shed light on a heretofore neglected aspect of 
Nabokov's fiction: his portrayal of women. It embraces the entire corpus of 
his novels, as well as some of his short stories and non-fictional works. 
Nabokov is renowned for his finely chiselled prose, sharpness of vision and 
provocative slant of thought. Yet for all his stylistic and intellectual 
originality, Nabokov's mode of characterization does not escape certain 
archetypal and stereotypical patterns. This tendency is all the more 
conspicuous in the case of female characters, who, despite being in constant 
focus, never appear in his novels as dominant focalizers. The narrative 
point of view in every one of Nabokov's novels is as distinctively male as 
is his claim for absolute authority over his fictional worlds. This twofold 
objectification of women has made Nabokov an ideal target for feminist 
critics, yet surprisingly few have risen to the challenge. The reason for 
this critical silence may lie in Nabokov's characteristic ambiguity. His 
vision is a prismatic one, which refracts rather than reflects the reality 
it refers to. My aim, which is not primarily feminist, is to investigate 
various Nabokovian refractions of the feminine: the vulgar, the virtuous, 
the muse, the mother. I examine the way in which Nabokov plays with these 
familiar figures of femininity and confers upon them an individual aura, 
turning them into his own 'ultraviolet darling[s]'. In my first chapter, I 
gather around the notion of poshlost and the figure of Emma Bovary various 
kinds of vulgar women. These are contrasted with a group of virtuous women, 
who fail to achieve harmonious relationships with their male partners. In my 
second chapter, I consider the muse figure and its implications for women's 
role in Nabokov's artistic process. In my third chapter, I study Nabokov's 
iconography of the maternal by examining various configurations of the 
mother-child relationship in his fiction. My last chapter brings into 
perspective the very notion of representation by dwelling upon the pictorial 
politics framing the female portrait. Throughout my study, references to 
Nabokov's relationships with women in real life draw these issues into 
relief and help to illuminate both the distinctively personal and the more 
traditional traits in Nabokov's delineation of the feminine.