An Honest Question

Dear All,

It has been suggested to me (by one of you) that I teach a whole seminar just on Lolita. As I envision it, I’d start the class with short stories, GRGW, other short texts by Nabokov about how he writes. We’d read the whole “poshlust” chapter in his Gogol book. I’d probably also teach Speak Memory!, which we didn’t get to read.

We’d do a lot of close reading of the novel itself, and read lots of different criticism.

And then we’d have a whole section of the course on reception. We’d think more thoroughly through the “Lolita Myth” (Patnoe), we’d watch and discuss the two films (Kubrick and Lyne), I’d find some texts that engage with Lolita (including feminist responses).

What do you think? Should I do it?


8 thoughts on “An Honest Question

  1. It seems promising! I took a Shakespeare course at Pomona in which we analyzed only two plays for the entire semester. Because the number of plays we read was so limited we got to really dive into the text of both plays and had fun taking apart Shakespeare’s verses. I sometimes sense that we are trying to get through so many of his novels that we sometimes miss out on opportunities to close read as a class. It would be nice if we could spend a class really digging into a single paragraph of Lolita.

  2. I think it would be a more rewarding experience than spending just three weeks on a text that is so full of content!

  3. That sounds like a really cool course! Spending an entire semester on Lolita would be a great exercise in close reading and would allow for plenty of time to explore different analytical angles/aspects of the book. I would have liked to take it in my time at Pomona!

  4. What about a half semester course and have everyone read it before day one of class so that you can hit the ground running? That would give enough time to really get into the book but not to the point of overcooking the class. You might also get more people interested because it isn’t as large of a time commitment as a full semester.

  5. Now that we have finished Lolita, I find myself still seeking out new criticism, and tempted to reread the whole novel. Certainly, a good part of a semester could be used to study it. I also think Pale Fire might be a good addition (after Lolita) to that type of course, combined with the literature you mentioned as an introduction to Nabokov’s style, and of course, the films.

  6. I personally did not find Lolita necessarily more beautiful or engaging than Nabokov’s other novels. However, the idea of having a course dedicated to closer analyses of one or two of Nabokov’s works does sound very interesting, I just feel like doing only Lolita for a whole semester might be overkill.

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