Special Author: Vladimir Nabokov (Q3195)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

It is the major aim of this module to give students 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 and as significantly he was a translator and literary scholar of genius. We shall be examining the full range of his poetic output, this 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 an 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 students 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.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We’re planning to run this module in the academic year 2021/22. However, there may be changes to this module in response to COVID-19, or due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. It may not be possible to take some module combinations due to timetabling constraints. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: