Agrégation anglais 2011 : Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, Travaux dirigés
séance d’oct 2010
Ces TD ne concernent que le roman.
Corinne Bigot, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre
Cet article vient d’être modifié (sept 2010). Vous trouverez en fin d’article ma biblio. sélective et en doc joint (doc pdf) la bibliographie "officielle" (toutes deux mises à jour), vous trouverez aussi des indications pour trouver les docs (internet/ BU/ Bibl des langues/enveloppe "Lolita").
page wiki pour infos : http://anglais.u-paris10.fr/wikka/BigotLolitaAgreg
Travaux dirigés (commentaires de passages du roman)
References : PL : refers to the Penguin Edition, AL refers to the Annotated Lolita (most critics use the Annotated Lolita)
Deux enveloppes contenant des articles sont à la Bibliothèque des Langues pour que les étudiants puissent les consulter et photocopier. Elles se trouvent dans la nouvelle bibliothèque langues du bâtiment V
I-General advice II-Selected bibliography III-Re-reading the novel IV Classes
You need a good dictionary, not just the notes. Erudite, rare, obsolete & foreign words are used for a specific purpose.
Numerous passages are written in such a way as to send you forward & backward, with numerous echoes or, to quote Boyd "pointed pairing of ostensibly unrelated scenes" (the American Years). Tracing the echoes/ patterns is the only way to read the novel. See for instance the echoes bet I-6 & I-27 (Camp Q) or I-14 & I-29. Or I-6 & II-14 + II-29 I-20 and I-23.
Pay special attention to the opening lines of a chapter (very often it says it all, as in “Ramsdale revisited” or “the house was Lo-less” .
Pay special attention to end of chapters
Do not dismiss incongruous boring passages : they have a use – what’s the use of the descriptions & lists of motels & hotels in chapters 1 to 3 the first journey across America ? Of the book H is reading in chapter I-22 ? the hydrant in chapter I-25 ? Do not dismiss "unimportant" characters : What is the function of Monique (I-6) ? Valeria and her lover ? Why does H focus on money passing hands in chapter I-17 (at Camp Q) ?
When studying a passage
Do not dismiss “trivial” details (this is a quote, cf. I-27, “trivial and fateful detail” = in Nabokov’s novels, the trivial detail is fateful detail). What is their function ? They may have a proleptic functin for instance. Pay attention to the choice of words, i.e. when you are given details about the colour of an object or part or body : why apricot ? Why rubious or rusty or russet and not red ? Is there a connotation ? A play on sounds ? Alliterations ? A verbal echo with another passage ?
Yet remember that Nabokov hated "symbols". The objet and its description are more likely to be meaningful inside the novel, as a clue, as a projection of H’s vision. Pay attention to the incongruous adjective in a description.
Why does H tell us telephones & toilets have always played a part in his fate and life ?
Study the “documents” : The Who’s Who extract / The class list / Charlotte’s letter / hotel registers / motel brochures / posters : are they real or bogus ? What is their function ? Note the elements that undermine their reliability.
H’s numerous atttempts to exonerate himself and depict himself as a victim, of fate, of his passion. his presenting his desire as a disease. Humbert’s hubris.
Study the various ways Humbert addresses the reader (what reader ? See article by S. Fraysse in Qwerty (1995) “Le texte tendu au lecteur” as it details the different modes of address & their consequences. See how Humbert manipulates the reader through language : his use of literary references, his humour, his making fun of Charlotte or even of himself.
What makes the novel so funny at times ? What is the purpose of all the humourous passages ? What is the function of the comic elements in chapters such as I-29 ?
Always check the meaning, if not the origin of rare words (the tennis scene in II-20 is a very good example of this : you need to check the origins/double meanings of rare words ("tyros" or "purling" for inst.) to get the full meaning of the passage.
What is the purpose of the medical vocabulary ? His use of French words
(3 articles in the bibliography on this particular point).
Make a note of Humbertian constructions (the house was Lo-less) & Invented words (merman ; to mauvemail Charlotte) Plays on clichés (chucked my silence under the chin ; Basking in the beams of smiling chance). M. Wood in his chapter on Lolita & language offers interesting insights.
Pay attention to the figures of style & explain their role in your passage
hypallage : (The breathless garden ; her dear dirty blue jeans ; blind seventy purblind fifty ; innocent cotton frock / innocent forest ; the executed sweater ) metonymy & synecdoche in descriptions (not just when describing Lo, but also Charlotte) & when referring to himself : my glance slithered over the kneeling child oxymoron (revoltingly handsome ; friendly abyss ; Hallucinational lucidity, alliterations (not all of them are poetic, they are used in moments that are supposedly tragic or in parodic passages : went to room and ruminated and rumpled my hair and modelled my purple robe, and moaned )
Remember everything is seen from his perspective. His is the only point of view, he is the filter for every description. See II-29 and the description of the house, and of Dolly’s husband.
Most descriptions are a projection of H’s fears, desires, obsessions etc.
Lo & Humbert
See how H gradually turns Lo into a vulgar brat and a vile slut. (see René Alladaye’s paper at l’ENS on the mental prison)
"Read through" the poetic descriptions, and see how H is obsessed with Lo’s body : its surface / its inside (note the numerous references to her bones or her insides. What happens when he sees her at Camp Q (I-27) ? When they quarrel (II-14) ? See how H "creates" his Lolita each time he looks at her.
The way Humbert refers to himself : animal similes ; physical description, part 1 : the cinematographic or literary models/ figures (cf dark film noir hero/ Dostoevskian hero – pay attention to elements of parody) then note the differences between part I (good looks, strength etc ) and part II (fragile diminutive man). What is he trying to achieve ?
See how obsessed with his body as well as Lo’s body Humbert is (from chapter One —Lolita is a word, Humbert is flesh. Make a note of the numerous references to his body complaints, headaches, blood pressure, digestion, of the numerous –infantile ?—references to his penis.) Pay attention to one recurring motif : his hand ("satanic hand", "hand of crime", "knuckles", "talons", "claws" + his hand in I-13, in I-27 (camp) + other images we are made to construct such as a sleight of hand...
Patterns and motifs, the hound, the reapparition of Charlotte as a ghost from chapter 25—What is the functions of these references ?
The chess and generally speaking games motif.
In the paper he gave at Nanterre, Will Norman explained that Lolita was a disturbing book, because of the narrator’s relentless attempts to seduce us & entrap us in his rhtetoric. He suggested we see the act of reading as "negotiation" . We need to be reminded of where we stand : a critical part of us must remain unseduced, we must be aware of our complicity. The novel has an outisde, we need to step back and stand outside, and look at the novel from the outside. This is particularly true of the intertexts : we can look at them through our own eyes not Humbert’s. Most importantly and particularly relevant, he insisted, There can be no fixed meaning for this is what the narrator is trying to get from us. This, I found, was probably the best pieces of advice that could be given to concours students. Telling them/you that the unease they/you can feel is part of the reading experience, since Lolita was written in such a way as to produce this unique reading experience, you are meant to be seduced and entrapped but you are also meant to see through H’s rhetoric (Tamir’s phrasing) and readers do not need to either believe in H’s rhetoric or reject the novel : there is "a third" way (W. Norman’ s phrasing). Stepping back and considering the novel from outside does not prevent its enjoyment.
This is also why I would advise you look at the notes with a critical eye too !
The notes in The Annotated Lolita are useful, yet there are some allusions Appel did not get, and sometimes his explanations do not explain that much, they give you the literary reference but do they really help understand the passage ? Sometimes, Appell reminds me of the narrator of Pale Fire, since he sometimes approves of vhat H does ! Regarding Appell’s interpretations, you are allowed to differ, and offer a different interpretation.
(see also “official” bibliography prepared by C. Raguet Bouvard & Marie Bouchet : DOC JOINT PDF
The choice of references here is all mine so please, this means I can only recommend the articles/books/chapters that I have read and this also means there are other articles & books you will find more interesting than the ones I have selected.
Please listen to
Hachette Audio : Lolita read by Jeremy Irons, unabridged version (11 hours, 10 Cds, a bit expensive but should help you understanding & remembering the text)
(1) The following article and book chapters are particularly useful when studying a passage since Tamir-Ghez focuses on rhetorical devices at work in every passage in the novel (except the preface) Wood’s focus is on language, and Chupin has studied H’s role as writer.
Tamir-Ghez, Nomi, “The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov’s Lolita” in Poetics Today vol 1-1,1979, reprinted in Vladimir Nabokov, a Casebook, ed. Ellen Pifer, OUP, 2003, pp. 17-38. A copy has been left in the enveloppe.
Wood, Michael, chapter 5 : “Language and Lolita” in The Magician’s Doubts : Nabokov and the Risks of FictionLondon : Chatto & Windus, 1994, pp. 103-142. ( photocopies in the enveloppe)
Yannicke Chupin’s book, Vladimir Nabokov : Fictions d’écrivain has a whole chapter on Lolita, : the BU has 3 copies salle de prêt+salle langues).
820(73)"19" NAB 8 CHU
4 Books have been published for the concours :
Marie Bouchet’s Lolita (Atlante, 2009) is an excellent introduction to the novel, and includes a selected bibliography, as well as references to the film.
Both the Lolita published by Sedes and the Lolita published by Ellipses are in the bibliothèque langues. They contain numerous articles : (in Sedes see the articles by Chupin & Alladaye, in Ellipses, Alladaye again and Delage-Toriel, Chouard-Crémieux & Bouchet).
DELAGE-TORIEL, Lara, Lolita de Vladimir Nabokov et de Stanley Kubrick. Paris : Editions du Temps Collection Synthèse d’une oeuvre, 2009. 2 copies in the BU (salle de prêt+ salle langues) 820(73)"19" NAB 8 DEL (very interesting points on parody and narrator-narratee relationship), also very useful for its analysis of ’significant moments" (those pages have been written in English & will help you with writing a commentary in English).
(2) Many papers have been published on line.
Most of these papers have been written "for you" with the concours in mind, so you may start with these :
The papers given at the 2-day symposium at ENS last year have been put on line :
Please pay particular attention to the papers by René Alladaye (the prison motif) and Monica Manolescu, Yannicke Chupin & Claire Magniez.
Several papers given at the 1-day symposium at Nanterre can be found on our web site : http://anglais.u-paris10.fr/spip.php?article1524
You can also read the two papers we have given on the use of French words (Conférences “Les Mots étrangers” Paris Ouest Nanterre Feb 2010)
papers given at the symposium at Toulouse 2 :
(Machu & Boucher, also Baque )
symposium at Montpellier
(Alladaye, Boucher, Chupin. Alladaye’s paper on games is a "must read", since it tackles the narrator/reader relationship as well as the games played by H as protagonist)
Other relevant articles to be found on the internet :
Boyd, Brian “Lolita : What we know and what we don’t” in Cycnos, vol. 24, n°1, 2007, 215-246. http://revel.unice.fr/cycnos/docume...
Couturier, Maurice “The poerotic Novel : Nabokov’s Lolita & Ada,
Fraysse, Susanne, “Worlds under Erasure : Lolita and Postmodernism” in Cycnos, vol. 12-2, 1995, pp. 93-100 http://revel.unice.fr/cycnos/document.html?id=1461&format=print
Quayle, Susan, “Lolita is Dolores Haze : the “real child and the real body in Lolita, Nabokov Online Journal , vol. 3, 2009 http://etc.dal.ca/noj/volume3/articles/07_Quayle.pdf
Manolescu, Monica, “ Inventing and Naming America : Place and Place Names in Vladimir Nabokov”s Lolita European Journal of American Studies, EJAS, 2009 http://ejas.revues.org/document7550.html
Manolescu, Monica, Humbert’s Arctic Explorations. intertextual interpretations, Nabokov Studies,11, 2007
Pifer, Ellen, “Finding the Real Key to Lolita : A Modest Proposal”, in Cycnos, Actes du Colloque Nice 2006 : http://revel.unice.fr/cycnos/document.html?id=1036&format=print
Toker, Leona, “‘Reader ! Bruder !’ Broodings on the Rhetoric of Lolita” in Nabokov : The Mystery of Literary Structure, Ithaca & London, Cornell University Press, 1989 pp 198-227 (the easiest way to access the chapter is, once you are on Google, to type in relevant words such as Leona toker reader bruder rhetoric lolita nabokov mystery )
Wood, Michael : “Lolita in wonderland” in Comparative Criticism, Comedy, Irony, Parody, vol. 10 ed E.S. Shaffer, Cambridge, CUP, 1989, PP. 159-70 (a few pages are missing)
(2) Qwerty Oct 1995 numéro 5. In 1995, Lolita was on the Concours syllabus, and QWERTY published a special issue with several very interesting articles (should be in Nanterre’s library yet seems to have been misplaced at some stage...) BUFR LEV cote : 820.09 ROU QWE(5)
I have copied a few articles :
Chouard, Géraldine, “Loli-time : temps, hors-temps et contretemps dans Lolita de Vladimir Nabokov", Qwerty, n°5, oct 1995, pp. 303-14. (illuminating article, a must read)
Fraysse, Susanne, “Le texte tendu au lecteur : Lolita de Nabokov", Qwerty, n°5, oct 1995, pp. 315-324. (very good on the narrator-reader relationship)
Machu, Didier « Arrêt sur l’image : le tombeau de Lolita » Qwerty, N05, oct 1995, pp. 33-342.
Pifer, Ellen : “Lolita & her kin” (also reprinted in The Lolita Casebook)
(3) Other relevant articles
Alladaye, René, “Troubles doubles : les ruses de l’identité dans Lolita » in Etudes Anglaisesvol 48-4, oct-déc 1995, pp. 478-488.
Alladaye, René "By putting the Geography of the United States into Motion", Lolita, Ellipses, 2009, pp 29-42.
Alladaye, René, "Play hard", enjeu des jeux dans Lolita " (to be published by Miranda, until then, as pdf doc on line see above).
Bouchet, Marie, “The Details of Desire : from Dolores on the Dotted Line to Dotted Dolores” in Nabokov Studies vol 9, 2005, pp. 101-114. [Copies in the enveloppe, Bibliothèque langues.]
Bouchet, Marie, “De Dolores, CO à Lolita, TX : détours et retours à travers “The Crazy Quilt of forty-eight States”", in Anglophonia, février mars 2006, pp. 9-22 [copies in the enveloppe]
Bouchet Marie, "Focalisation and Narration in Lolita, Novel and Film, Lolita, Ellipses, 2009, ppp 209-223.
Chouard, Géralidne & Crémieux Anne, "Love at first sight : Humbert Meets Lolita", Lolita, Ellipses, 2009, pp. 265-274. (the book is in the bibliothèque des langues)
Chupin, Yannicke, « “Do You Mind Very Much Cutting Out The French ?” Le français de Humbert dans Lolita de Vladimir Nabokov », in Revue Française d’Etudes Américaines, n° 115 2008/1, 50-59. (copies in the enveloppe)
Delage-Toriel, Lara, "Nabokov’s sense of detail", Lolita, ed. didier machu, T/ Tuhkunen, Ellipses, 2009, pp.55-70.
De La Durantaye, Leland, “Lolita in Lolita” Navokov Studies, vol. 10, 2006, pp 175-197. (Copies in the enveloppe)
Norman, Will, "Lolita’s Time Leaks’ and Transantlantic decadence", European Journal of American Culture, Vol 28, Nb2, 2009, pp185-204. ( Will Norman was our guest speaker at Nanterre, and the article takes up the same themes he developped in his papers. Will Norman having graciously sent me a copy of the article, we have a copy in the enveloppe).
Pifer, Ellen, “The Lolita phenomenon from Paris to Teheran” in The Cambridge Companion to Vladimir Nabokov, ed. J. Connolly, CUP, 2005, pp. 185-199 In Nanterre’s BU 820(73)"19"NAB8 con
Pifer, Ellen, “Lolita” in The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov, ed. V. Alexandrov, New York : Garland, 1995, 305-321. In Nanterre’s BU : 820(73)"19"NAB 8 ALE
Raguet-Bouvard, Christine « Comme un reflet dans Lo » in Mythes et réalités transatlantiques : dynamiques des systèmes de représentation dans la littérature, Ch. Lerat, ed, Talence : Maison des Sciences de l’Aquitaine, 1997, pp. 195-206. [copies in the enveloppe]
Raguet-Bouvard, Christine, Lolita, un royaume au-delà des mers, Talence, Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 1996. Two copies in nanterre’s main library 820(73)"19"NAB 8 ....
Shute, Jenefer ‘Text of the Female Body in Nabokov’s Novels” (1985), reprinted in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita , a Casebook, ed. Ellen Pifer, OUP, 2003, pp. 111-120.
You might also find interesting points in
Boyd’s "Literature, Patterns, Lolita : or Art, Literature, Science" in The Transitional Nabokov, ed. Will Norman, Pter Lang, 2009 (esp from page 40)
White, Duncan "(I I have camouflaged everything, my love)" : Lolita’s Pregnant Parentheses, Nabokov Studies, 9, 2005, pp. 47-63.
Both articles will be added to the contents of the envelopes.
For those who wish to read other novels by Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962) and Ada (1969) will remind you of Lolita, Pale Fire has a madman as (unreliable) narrator. Ada describes a life-long love affair between siblings (which started when they were teenagers). Pale Fire’s narrator’s rhetoric of persuasion will remind you of Humbert’s. You will decide whether Ada is, as M. Couturier calls it, a “poerotic novel” and see how similar to and different from Lolita it is. Both Jenefer Shute’s ‘Text of the Female Body in Nabokov’s Novels” (1985), reprinted in the Casebook, ed. Ellen 2003, pp. 111-120, and Couturier’s “The Poerotic Novel : Nabokov’s Lolita & Ada”, compare the novels. Despair, may also prove an interesting read, his narrator may remind you of Humbert (a madman who is blinded by his obsession as narrator — the narrative technique that is designed to help the reader distrust Herman may help you understand how Lolita works).
III- Re-reading the novel
Classes will start on Thursday Oct 8th -students will have read the novel at least once, and will have re-read the first 15 chapters. Since we have 5 classes, I have divided the novel into five sections.
(1) Context/ preparatory reading From the prologue to end of Chapter 24.
Use of the prologue ; note the parodic elements. John Ray’s style.
Chap 1 : compare article by Fraysse (“Worlds under Erasure" in Cycnos, vol. 12-2, 1995) & C. Raguet’s first chapter on the evocation of Lolita. Pay attention to the Annabel episodes end of chap 3 & 4. I-4 See the reference to “institutions” where H could “stare at” pubescent girls “with matted eyelashes” “in perfect impunity” = announces the theme of voyeurism in the book (cf Alladaye’s article on prisons, where he points out H’s obsession with spying on Lo). I-5 Pay particular attention to his definition of a nymphet and the nympholept, and his attempts to exonerate himself. Why does H say “here are some more pictures” ? (p 19).
The Paris chapters : make a note of the character of Monique, pay attention to the use of French words (I stand by what I wrote abt this see "conférence les mots étrangers"). Find out the function of the Valeria-Maximovich couple. Pay attention to the way the narrator describes himself.I-6 : see how this chapter ties in with II-7, II-29 (Monique) also I-27 when Humbert picks up Lo from camp (Mlle Edith). Make a note of the image of “our small Eden” (with Monique)
I-7 : cf the two body parts that Valeria borrows from H and puts into her painting
I-8 Cf René Alladaye’s Enjeu des jeux sur l’expression frs « mais qui est-ce ? »
The unflushed toilet : See what H says abt toilets and telephones in II-16
Chap 8 : the "Who’s Who" extract. Chapter 9 : see Monica Manolescu’s article on the arctic intertextual references.
Chap 10 : H’s arrival in R. The chapter’s perfect structure & the introduction of various recurring motifs makes it a must read if not must study passage. Note its construction. Note the fires & the impossibility to escape from the fires. Note the way Lolita’s entrance is prefigured by the items scattered in the house. Note the use of H’s glance to direct our attention to them. Trace the items in other chapters (11, 13, 28 for instance) ; asks yourself who planted them in the house (a character or the narrator). See the construction of the Garden of Eden motif complete with its snakes. Relevant article : Anne Crémieux & G. Chouard’s article in Ellipse. See also Delage Toriel’s analysis of the encounter in her book (how the topos of the first encounter is revisited).
Chap 11 note the garden scenes. Pay attention to the spider / web theme and the various occurrences of enmeshed (from chap 10). Relevant article : Machu on "le totalitarisme" (Toulouse) on the spider. What is the function of the numerous references to McFate ? Pay attention to the attempts to describe Lolita. The seduction game at the end of chapter 11 and the use of French by Lo. See how the scene on the piazza in 11 foreshadows I-13, the davenport scene. “friday” see the bit about the spell of insanity in II-19. See Monica Manolescu’s article “Figures de l’ailleurs”, ENS, sillages critiques) for the references to the veil.
chapter 13 : the davenport scene, and its most puzzling assertion : "Lolita had been safely solipsized". the slave/sultan motif will reappear in later chapters see I-30. Note the parenthesis : (as if we had been struggling) —what is its function ? See relevant article : Marie Boucher’s "music and song" (Toulouse). + Manolescu’s article (ENS, « Figures de l’ailleurs ») on the Oriental imagery in I-13 and I-30. The telephone (see chat H says about toilets and telephones II-16)
Chapter 14 : see how the conjurer’s trick motif is played out in the chapter. Relevant articles : Leland De La Durantaye, “Lolita in Lolita” , Navokov Studies, & Qayle’s “Lolita is Dolores Haze : the “real child and the real body in Lolita", Nabokov Online Journal & Tamir-Ghez’s “The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov’s Lolita” cf Casebook, for the rhetoric of persuasion. Second half of the chapter : Study the theatrical theme in the scene with Charlotte. See how the chapter ties in with the following chapters : see Humbert’s schemes escalating. Chapter 15 : note the ellipsis (the pajamas) and the curious ending ("unraped"). Chapter 16 : Charlotte’s letter -see how H the unreliable narrator plays with the reader by undermining the reliability of this document. Chapter 18 / the film it might be interesting to compare the depictions of their married life.
Chapters 20 See how H plays on the Arhturian motif. Focus on the lake scene (see Raguet-Bouvard, Lolita, un royaume au delà des mers around p 140 for analysis of the lake scene). Compare with film. Chapter 21 : see the elements that convey the erotic undertone of the chapter. Chap 22 : see what Delage Toriel says abt the way C’s death is staged in absentia through sounds (Lolita, 2009). The scene of the accident chapter 23 : see the elements suggesting a drowning. Why ?
II- the "central chapters" from 25 to 33.
Chapter 25 : note the presence of the hydrant, the symbolism of the Fork ; the "discharge". The shopping scene, see the mermaid/ water imagery.
from chap 25 to 27 note all the incidents that delay H. See C. Raguet’s book on water imagery.
H at camp Q : focus on the "trivial" details : H’s hand, the frames. Dolly’s (or Lolita’s ?) arrival/apparition. Relevant article : Marie Bouchet, “The Details of Desire : from Dolores on the Dotted Line to Dotted Dolores” Nabokov Studies .
After leaving Camp Q : what is the function of the scene in the car ? End of the chapter (hotel) : the maze motif, the quest motif, the fairy tale motif (Relevant articles : Sweeney, Susan, “Ballet Attitudes” : Nabokov’s Lolita and Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty” Casebook, pp. 121-136). The enchanted travelers motif. Humbert’s difficulties to find the hotel, find a parking space, get hold of a room. Pay particular attention to the dialogue with the clerks.
the description of the room : the mirrors in the room. Lolita & the clothes (see the water theme cf Raguet Bouvard). Chapter 28, Lolita in the room ; the conversation with the man on the porch. Chapter 29 : relevant article, René Alladaye’s "Geole, enjoler, enjoliver, surveiller et punir" (Sillages critiques) for the prison motif and reference to Proust. (http://sillagescritiques.revues.org/index1682.html)
What is the function of the comic elements in this chapter ? Imagining the murals chap 30 : relevant article, Delage Toriel’s"Nabokov’s sense of detail", Ellipses. What are the most important elements in chapter 32 : the revelations ? Quilty’s presence in the lobby ? Lo’s accusations ? What is the function of the list of items in Chap 33 ?
Part II : from chapt II-1 to II-14 (journey + Beardsley)
chapters 1 to 3.
The use of the description of lists in Part II- chapters 1,2,3. See the articles by Géraldine Chouard (“Loli-time : temps, hors-temps et contretemps"), Monica Manolescu (“ Inventing and Naming America : Place and Place Names" (on line) , Marie Bouchet (“De Dolores, Co à Lolita, Tx”), René Alladaye ("Putting the Geography into motion") on these chapters : II-1 cf – landscapes turned into a picture + erotic dimension of the description. See also chapter 7 in Chupin’s Fictions d’écrivains (262 for instance).
II-2 see the chapter is built on an opposition between H’s words (passionate father, morning duty, typical child, questions abt the whereabouts of schools and swimming pools and what is happening (H’s activities & demands)
The chapters are puzzling, it is worth spending time rereading them and trying to make sense of them---they are not just "boring" and meant to bore the reader as one critic argued. Note the use of landscape as a projection of H’s desire. One of their main purposes is to let the reader guess what is really happening to the girl. Trace the reference to (and parody of) Mme Bovary. See how little Lo’s voice is heard throughout these chapters. Note Humbert’s uninterrupted speech in chpater 1 and the threats. Note the oblique and direct references to violence and sexual abuse. Note the cruel irony of H’s depiction of Lo as well as the transformation of the girl into a vulgar teenager.
Chapter 4 : Meeting the headmistress : note the parodic elements in her speech. What is H mocking here ? Gaston Godin as Humbert’s double (Chap 6) ; What is the function of chapter 7 (H’s apparent purpose versus what the reader is expected to see) ? Note the scenes reviewed –or imagined ?- by Humbert posing as a father in chapter 8. Chapter 9 : compare the three girls (Lo, Eva, Mona). Look closely at the very last line. What is Humbert puzzled by ? Chapter 11 : the headmistress’s speech : where does she get it right or wrong ? Compare with film. Again, what kind of discourse is being mocked here ? Why ?Note Humbert’s hypocrisy in chap 13 when he raves agst the theatre.
Chapt 14 : note the change from Lolita to Dolores Haze and back to Lolita.
Relevant article : Chouard/Crémieux « Who’s Afraid of Lolita Haze, the Row Scene » : http://anglais.u-paris10.fr/IMG/pdf/Who_s_Afraid.pdf
Lo’s use of French as a reversal of H’s (http://anglais.u-paris10.fr/IMG/pdf/Bigot_Lolita.pdf)
From II-15 to the end (from second journey)
Chapter 16 : note the apparition of Charlotte’s ghost. What is the function of the characters in Kasbeam ? How is H’ sexual violence conveyed at the end of the chapter ? Quilty as Humbert’s shadow in chapt 18. The play in chapter 18.
Chapter 19 : see how Humbert transforms his surroundings (the posters), Mona’s letter : what is its function in the story ? Note how chapter 20 ties in with 21. Chapter 20 : describing or recreating Lolita ?
The first tennis game chap 20 : note the references to music, the theatre, & chess. The second game and its interruption (see paper by Magniez on the syncope, ENS, sillages critiques). Note the style in the chapter and how the passage relies on a confusion between the narrating I and the narrated I, see how H’s loss of control is highlighted in this passage. Nabokov himself insisted the tennis scenes were very relevant to him, and both passages in chap 20 are worth spending time on. Relevant article : René Alladye’s paper on games ("play hard, enjeu des jeux") which underscores the links between tennis and chess.
Note the accumulation of references to Humbert’s heart culminating in the heart attack chap 21.
Chapter 22 : see how the hospital trip runs uninterrupted for several pages (from the middle of page 272 PL to the middle of page 275 PL// AL 239-241) ; note the effect produced by Humbert’s concern for her illness because it prevents intercourse. See article by Toker which underlines the elements of violence & suggests Lo is dead. H’s loss of control as revealed by his fight with the nurse. Chapter 23 the famous paper chase + The "maniac’s masterpiece" in chapter 25—what purpose do they serve ? Humbert’s pursuit of the shadow & its apparition in the photograph chpt 26. Chapt 27 : the letters : what is the function of Farlow’s letter ? Focus on the elements that have led critics to conclude the letter from Dolly doesn’t exist.
Chapter 29 : Meeting Dolly. See the play on names (Dolly/ she /lolita/ Carmen/ she) ; note the reference to the petit cadeau which evokes the Parisian prostitute ; note H’s description of himself as fragile and diminutive. See the references to Dolly’s pregnant body. Focus on the description of Dolly’s husband, and more particularly his hand. What does the passage reveals about H’s fears ?
Michael Wood in “Language and Lolita” proposes an interesting reading of this passage. Can we believe Humbert when he professes he now loves this Lolita ? Many critics disagree on this passage.
Note the references to Humbert’s drinking in the final chapters. Chapter 30 : note the plays on lights and alternate vision. chapter 31 : see how Humbert introduces the idea of the murder as lawful execution. Chapter 32 see how Humbert presents a very different picture of his and Lo’s life in Beardsley (compare with chapter 8 for instance. Note the elements that undermine his self professed regrets. Chapter 33 : what does H mean by "revisiting" Ramsdale, and his "mental regurgitation" ? What is the purpose of the murder story ? The allusion to music being played in the house ? Chapter 35 : the murder scene, and Quilty as Humbert’s double (many articles analyse the scene). The end of the novel : interesting analysis by Delage Toriel (Lolita). Interpretations differ on H’s epipahny.
The question of H’s chronology has also been the subject of various papers.
Première séance Jeudi 21 oct
DM pour le 1er décembre :
I-11 "Monday. RAiny morning" AL 49/PL53 to "her own shapely ears" AL 52/PL55
I-27 frm “I reached my destination around half past two” to “We sped through the speckled forest” (AL 110-111/ PL 124-125)
I-27 frm “The miracle I hankered for did happen after all” to “crayfish Tom with the bags” (AL 117-119 / 132-134)
I-29 : frm the beginning to “Let us wait” (AL 128-129/ PL 144-146)
II-1 from “We came to know" to my poor joy"( AL 145-146)
II-7 : the whole chapter OR II-8 : frm “On the whole she seemed to me better adapted to her surroundings” to the end of the chapter (AL 188-189/ PL213-215)
— II-18 frm beginning to “Lolita was studying a road map when I got back into the car” (AL 216-218/PL 246-248)
II-20 : from “ Two people in tennis shorts” to “ the remaining trio were collecting and sorting out the balls” (AL 234-235/ PL 266-268)
I- 29 : frm “At this point, there came brisk homey sounds from the kitchen” to “are so disdainful of hearing aids” (AL 273-275/ 311-313)
The first passage will be studied together, but from the second week, for each passage under consideration, two students will prepare a written commentary, the others are requested to identify the structure of the passage, make a list of all the elements they see as relevant in the passage, and prepare an introduction (brève situation du passage, structure du passage, annonce du plan du commentaire).
There will also be a devoir à la maison to be handed in by Dec 1st.