Other Authors To Be Included In The Current Curriculum

2366 words - 9 pages

The twentieth century produced innumerable great and influential writers from all over the world. There are many that belong to the period studied, roughly from 1910s to the 1960s, who could arguably and justifiably be studied on the module alongside the masters of modernisms already on the syllabus - Kafka, Woolf, Joyce and Eliot. Authors such as Arthur Miller and his Death of a Salesman, F. Scott Fitzgerald with The Great Gatsby or Marcel Proust with his In Search for Lost Time have made it considerably difficult to single out Vladimir Nabokov as the author that I think should be studied on our module. Not only are his novels remarkable, but also his relationship to language and even his life are so fascinating to the point I think Lolita should be on everybody’s bookshelf. Even the fact that two great filmmakers, namely Stanley Kubrick and Adrian Lyne, have attempted to capture the beauty, complexity and multi-faceted nature of this book with limited success suggests the wide ranging merits of Lolita and the books place between the most important books of the century.

I will argue that Lolita should be studied on the Literature in the Modern World module, because of its author’s relationship to the prominent modernists and their influence on his novels, which further serves to deepen the understanding of the modernist movement as a whole and its influence of the writers to come after, such as the “pre-postmodernist” Nabokov himself (Johnson 89). Another feature of Lolita is its relationship to ethics fuelled by the unreliable narrator, since it makes it impossibly easy for the reader to be seduced by Humbert’s narrative into sympathizing with him, which problematizes the role of perversion, obsession and the child in the novel. In order to make space for this remarkable novel, I would suggest taking out Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, as I think Joyce’s bildungsroman Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man provides more than enough food for thought in terms of its genre and the realm of modernist culture as a whole.

Nabokov had a very complex relationship with his predecessors, which is largely projected in Lolita. The great modernist writers, in his eyes, resisted cultural decline, at least as found in ready-made, stereotypical brands of fiction, were uncomfortable if not downright alienated in the bourgeois societies of their time and undermined the grandiose claims of imperial power with various linguistic and literary subversions (Foster 86). As a result, his view of Eliot and Pound was not particularly favorable and culminated to an extent in his rejection of English-language “high modernism,” according to John Burt Foster (86). As Andrew Goldstein points out, in Lolita this directly manifests itself in direct burlesquing of Eliot’s poem Gerontion in the beginning section of the novel (Lecture on Lolita). The protagonist Humbert Humbert is describing his youth and his decision to study English literature and cites one of his...

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