Advertisement

Pale Fire Solved

  • David Carrier
Chapter
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 211)

Abstract

Such diverse philosophers as Davidson, Derrida and Goodman have given arguments supporting the claim that unrevisable interpretations of artworks are impossible. Although this view has been supported by appeal to radical his-toricism, Heidegger’s account of language and the deconstrunionists’ texts, it may be defended by quite respectable philosophical arguments. An ideal interpretation, Alexander Nehamas writes, “would account for all the text’s features”; to interpret is to place that text “in a context which accounts for as many of its features as possible.”1 All interpretations thus are partial for the ultimately trivial reason that, just as no map can represent all features of what it maps, so “no reading can ever account for all of a text’s features.” To interpret is “to understand an action” and this to “understand an agent and therefore other actions and agents as well…” Hence “each text is inexhaustible: its context is the world.” Just as there is no way that the world is independently of how it is described, so there is no way that an artwork is apart from how it is interpreted; different descriptions of the world or an artwork point out different features or describe differently given features of those entities.

Keywords

Spatial Metaphor Detective Story Future Interpretation Ideal Interpretation Mountain Resort 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Alexander Nehamas “The postulated Author: Critical Monism as a Regulative Ideal,” Critical Inquiry, 8, 1 (1981) pp. 144, 148, 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    E.D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  3. 3a.
    “Manet and his interpreters” Art History, 8, 3, (1985), pp. 320–35;Google Scholar
  4. 3b.
    “Ekphrasis and Interpretation: Two Modes of Art Historical Interpretation” The British Journal of Aesthetics, XXVII,1 (1987):20–31;Google Scholar
  5. 3c.
    Artwriting. (Amherst: Univ. of Mass. Pr, 1987)Google Scholar
  6. 4a.
    See Julia Bader, Crystal Land: Artifice in Nabokov’s English Novels. (Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Pr, 1972);Google Scholar
  7. 4b.
    Laurie Clancy, The Novels of Vladimir Nabokov. (New York: St. Martins, 1984);Google Scholar
  8. 4c.
    Andrew Field, Nabokov: His Life in Art. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1968);Google Scholar
  9. 4d.
    David Galef, “The Self-Annihilating Artists of Pale Fire,” Twentieth Century Literature, 31 (1985), pp. 421–37;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 4e.
    H. Grabes, Fictitious Biographies: Vladimir Nabokov’s English Novels. (The Hague: Mouton, 1977);Google Scholar
  11. 4f.
    L.L. Lee, Vladimir Nabokov. (Boston: Twayne Pub, 1976);Google Scholar
  12. 4g.
    John Lyons’ contribution to L.S. Dembo ed. Nabokov: The Man and his Work. (Madison: Univ. of Wis. Pr, 1967);Google Scholar
  13. 4i.
    David Packman, Vladimir Nabokov: The Stucture of Literary Desire. (Columbia & London: Univ. of Missouri, Pr, 1982);Google Scholar
  14. 4j.
    Peter J. Rabinowitz, “Truth in Fiction: A Reexamination of Audiences”, Critical Inquiry, 4 (1977) pp. 121–41;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 4k.
    Alden Sprowles’ contribution to C. Proffer ed., A Book of Things about Vladimir Nabokov. (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1974);Google Scholar
  16. 4l.
    Page Stegner, Escape into Aesthetics: The Art of Vladimir Nabokov. (New York: Dial Pr., 1966);Google Scholar
  17. 4m.
    Tony Tanner, City of Words: American Fiction 1950–1970. (New York: Harper & Row, 1977),Google Scholar
  18. 4n.
    CH. 1. The one useful account, from which I do borrow, is Mary McCarthy, “A Bolt from the Blue,” reprinted in her The Writing on the Wall and Other Literary Essays. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, (1970), pp. 15–34.Google Scholar
  19. 5.
    Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire. (New York: Berkley Books 1968); all references included in the text, the poem referred to by line and Kinbote’s Foreward and Commentary by page.Google Scholar
  20. 6.
    Stegner, Escape, p. 131; Field, Nabokov, p. 315; Hugh Kenner, A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. (New York: Knopf, (1975), p. 211.Google Scholar
  21. 7.
    My account of Lolita is drawn entirely from Carl Proffer, Keys to Lolita. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ, Pr. 1968); all references included in the text.Google Scholar
  22. 8.
    Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita. (New York: Berkeley, 1966); all references included in the text.Google Scholar
  23. 9.
    McCarthy discusses many of these inversions.Google Scholar
  24. 10.
    Nabokov was deeply distrustful of psychoanalysis and so it is interesting to note the parallels between his interest in world play and Freudian views of language; here the most useful account is Arthur Danto, “Freudian Explanations and the Language of the Unconscious,” J. Smith ed., Psychoanalysts and Language. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Pr, 1978), pp. 325–53.Google Scholar
  25. 11.
    Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), p. 92Google Scholar
  26. 12.
    See Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1980). This claim is of course, inconsistent with his theory of essences.Google Scholar
  27. 13.
    A discarded draft printed by Kinbote also makes this connection: As children playing in a castle find In some old closet full of toys, behind The animals and masks, a sliding door (four words heavily crossed out) a secret corridor — (77). I regret my inability to provide a plausible hypothesis about those four words here replaced with five.Google Scholar
  28. 14a.
    See my “Art and Its Preservation,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, XLIII,3 (1985), pp. 291–300;Google Scholar
  29. 14b.
    “Art and its Spectators,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, XLV,1 (1986), pp. 5–17;Google Scholar
  30. 14c.
    E. Haverkamp-Begemann, Rembrandt: ‘The Nightwatch’. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Pr., 1982): Artforum and Art in America frequently publish ‘corrections’ about upside-down photographs.Google Scholar
  31. 15.
    Thomas Nagel, “Sexual Perversion,” reprinted in R. Baker & F. Elliston (eds.), Philosophy of Sex. (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1975), pp. 247–60.Google Scholar
  32. 16a.
    Roberto Longhi’s account is reprinted in his Opere complete, vol. IV (Florence, 1968), pp. 82–143;Google Scholar
  33. 16b.
    a full discussion of the problem appears in Howard Hibbard, Caravaggio. (New York: Harper & Row, 1983); the philosophical issues are discussed in my “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: Caravaggio and His Interpreters,” Word and Image, III,1 (1987): 41–73.Google Scholar
  34. 17a.
    The texts of Lacan and Derrida appear in Yale French Studies, 48 (1973),Google Scholar
  35. 17b.
    and the discussions, with full bibliography, in Barbara Johnson, “The Frame of Reference: Poe, Lacan, Derrida,” Yale French Studies, 55/56 (1977), pp. 457–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 18.
    For example, Poe’s detective is akin to the connoisseur: both are experts at identifying the authentic original. See Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Morelli, Frued, and Sherlock Holmes,” U. Eco and T.A. Sebeok (eds.), The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Pr, 1983), pp. 81–118.Google Scholar
  37. 19.
    Arthur Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr, (1973).Google Scholar
  38. 20.
    In a letter of 4.19.83Google Scholar
  39. 21.
    See Leo Steinberg, “Pontormo’s Capponi Chapel,” Art Bulletin, 58 (1974), pp. 386–98.Google Scholar
  40. 22.
    Louis Althusser & Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital, Trans. B. Brewster (London: Verso Editions, 1979), p 27.Google Scholar
  41. 23.
    Thanks to Arthur Danto, Alexander Nehamas, Marianne Novy, Mark Roskill; for the last two words of my essay-Dana Scott; and to Richard Hennessy, whom this essay is for.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Carrier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations