Despair is a shorter, arguably less complex novel than Pale Fire or Lolita but one that engages equally closely with a Bergsonian/Shklovskyite model of mind. I argue that the novel constitutes a literary exploration of Bergson’s concept of the dyadic personality. Furthermore, I suggest that through his portrayal of murderous Hermann, yet another narrator prey to an elaborate delusion, Nabokov has provided us with a study of the automatized mind and a practical demonstration of the dangers of the Symbolist epistemology. Finally, I shall characterize Despair as a sustainedly ironic inversion of the Bergsonian/Shklovskyite notion of art as revelatory of reality.
KeywordsCentury Prose Symbolic Knowledge External Projection Literary Exploration North American Literature
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