In this chapter I shall argue that Nabokov’s most celebrated novel engages creatively with the Bergsonian/Shklovskyite model of mind. Lolita manifests a broad concern with delusion and with the potential of art both to dispel and to buttress such delusion. Nympholeptic Humbert presents as a curious hybrid, as a creature whose consciousness accommodates two antithetical epistemologies. Where other individuals are concerned, Humbert’s mode of cognition is perniciously, falsifyingly Symbolist. Unable directly to grasp the reality of his fellow human beings, Humbert instead apprehends them obliquely, as metaphors. When operating on the rest of material reality however, Humbert’s mind manifests a Formalist responsiveness to the strange beauty of the thing-in-itself. In his presentation of Humbert, Nabokov appears also to have been influenced by the Bergsonian/Shklovskyite notion of the rigid, automatized consciousness. As a kind of automaton himself, Humbert views others as automata, as determinate entities who shall do his bidding.
KeywordsMaterial Reality Child Molestation Symbolist Mode Literary Dimension American Landscape
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