English and drama

Special Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Module code: Q3195
Level 6
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

It is the major aim of this module to give you a deep understanding of the entire range of Nabokov's creative output and to place Lolita fairly and squarely within the context of Nabokov's remarkable achievements across a whole range of experimental writing. Vladimir Nabokov's popular celebrity rests upon what is generally regarded as his greatest as well as his most controversial, not to say scurrilous, novel Lolita. This peculiar work deserves its literary celebrity but Nabokov's oeuvre remains in danger of being obscured and deformed by an over emphasis upon a single novel. The vast and continuing fallout of Lolita in popular culture including films, graphic novels, pornography and even niche teen-marketing in the areas of fashion (those sunglasses!) and music continue to make a full understanding of Nabokov's literary genius difficult and problematic.

Nabokov not only wrote many other great novels, he was also a formal experimentalist who produced screenplays, drama and a substantial body of shorter fictions including novellas and short stories. He was a committed poet, a translator and literary scholar of genius. We shall be examining the full range of his poetic output, which will involve consideration not only of the material formally published as poetry but Nabokov's remarkable abilities to conflate and to parody poetic forms in the fiction. Pale Fire for example is a novel in the form of an extended commentary upon a long initial poem and of course the ritualised punishment of Quilty at the end of Lolita is focused on and extended parody of Eliot's The Hollow Men which Humbert makes Quilty read aloud. We shall also be considering Nabokov's quirky but superb translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. The module will also encourage you to think about the manner in which Nabokov's work has been translated into forms of popular culture including film, drama, advertising and visual art. We shall also be thinking about the exploitation of Nabokov's work as pornography in the popular market place.

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the formal and generic developments of a named author's work.
  • Understand how the work has been shaped by the social, historical and intellectual contexts in which it was produced.
  • Through critical analysis of a range of the author¿s writing over his/her career, demonstrate an understanding of how his/her literary reputation was established and has been maintained.
  • Organise complex material into an essay that illustrates independent research.