Adonica Sendelbach, Ohio Wesleyan University
While the Symbolist Movement contributed to the art of Pasternak, his perception of artistic creation was strongly influenced by one of the founders of that movement, Vladimir Solov'ev. This paper examines particular works by these two writers, Solov'ev's essay "The Meaning of Love" and Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhvago, for their views on artistic creation as a product of the love between a man and a woman. For Solov'ev, the male and the female both contribute important elements, "Logos" and "Sophia" respectively, to the creative act. In his view, Sophia or "divine wisdom" inspires Logos to create and to manifest this wisdom in art. The principles Solov'ev puts forth in his essay on artistic creation are applied to Pasternak's novel in this paper: Jurij, the poet, and Lara, his love, are the embodiment of "Logos" and "Sophia." While the prose of the novel as well as its poetic collection are examined, the poem "Winter Night", which most effectively demonstrates Solovjov's influence on Pasternak, is discussed in detail.
The examination of Solov'ev's ideas allows for a deeper understanding of Pasternak's art. In turn, Pasternak's manifestation of Solov'ev's ideas illuminates the philosopher's theories on creation and gender relationships. Observations concerning interconnections between Pasternak, Solov'ev, and other Symbolists, such as Vjacheslav Ivanov and his work "Wreath of Sonnets," with regard to artistic creation and male female relationships further enhance this study.
Tony Moore, Boston University
I was faced by the task of inventing America. The obtaining of such local ingredients as would allow me to inject a modicum of average "reality" (one
of the few words which mean nothing without quotes) into the brew of individual fancy.
--Vladimir Nabokov "On A Book Entitled Lolita" (L 312*)
Brian Boyd argued recently (Nabokov Studies II) that some scholars have wasted twenty years speculating whether Humbert's murder of Quilty was imagined by him, or a "real" event in the narrator's fictional world; he explained away the problems with the chronology of the 56 days that the character appears to take to write his memoir as an elementary Nabokov error. This paper rejects Boyd's wrong-headed intervention and finds new evidence in textual details of the English version, not discussed by others who favor the hypothesis, that the murder is certainly a psychological event.
The conspicuously bogus "Foreword" of the first book Nabokov wrote in America, composed by the ostentatiously fictional psychologist "John Ray, Jr., Ph.D.", declares that "as a case history, "Lolita" will become, no doubt, a classic in psychiatric circles" (L 5). Humbert, the notorious paedophile and blatantly manipulative first-person narrator, makes up dreams for his psychiatrist that are "pure classics in style" (L 34). One "local ingredient" in Nabokov's invention of America is his version of popularized American Freudianism. Another is the detective story. The two combine in the classic medley of psychoanalytic symbol and murder mystery (apparently solved on the narrator's first page) that climaxes in Humbert's detailed account of the incompetently executed and grotesquely melodramatic murder of Quilty (L 293-304).
Attentive readers of Lolita have not found much to light their way through more than forty years of disunited critical analysis, except all commentators agree that Humbert is a polymath and a prankster. He is not just a liar, but a Cretan liar, who glories in the linguistic virtuosity that keeps readers guessing if he tells the truth about telling lies, or lies about telling the truth. He openly declares himself a suspect source and continually provides good reason to distrust his narration. Lolita is a baffling novel that flaunts deception; "reality" is advertised as an elaborate fiction and belief in "fact" is a hazardous business.
Consequently, readers should be disinclined to accept as authentic the novel's final crucial narrative incident. The veracity of the murder story has been plausibly challenged by some shrewd critics who hesitate to endorse Humbert's self-accusation that he did away with his diabolic double; but the majority of these disbelievers remain tentative in their conclusions (Bruss, Tekiner, Toker, Connolly), while Alexander Dolinen's impressively sustained argument finally throws its weight behind special emphases on critical dates only found in the Russian version. My paper takes its lead from the paradox of reading--the murder as it would have been enacted in a "real" American fictional murder mystery and the presentation of that murder in this novel's discourse--defined by Linda Hutcheon.
The reader of overtly self-conscious works learns that he is indeed in a paradoxical position: while the text demands that he acknowledge the fictive and the linguistic artifact that is its universe, it also teaches and indeed compels him to respond "vitally," to attribute human significance to the process of creating imaginary worlds in words (Narcissistic Narrative, 117).
This paper argues that a "not guilty" verdict to first degree murder is sound and highlights an accumulation of small "linguistic artifacts" in Humbert's memoir showing him innocent of the "real" act. Since the murder never happens in "reality" but in his imagination, he can be indicted only on the charge of justifiable homicide--justified by his writing an "intrinsically artistic" meeting point "between imagination and knowledge" (Speak Memory).
"You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style" (L 9). This is not merely absurd logic, it is absurd logic gone wild, an outrageous claim that throws doubt on his own textual authority and taunts readers' judgements. This single sentence in Humbert's famous first chapter of half a page might disclose that he is a special kind of killer and a special kind of writer, except readers are deflected from the obvious by his sustained bravura performance in fusing verbal and sexual delight. But that is an abuse of his artistic potential the author cannot allow to last; the murder in the mind is the process of transcendence through which Humbert refashions himself into a Nabokovian artist; and the point at which the narrative changes from an entirely solipsistic to a more inclusive focalization. The homicide is justified by the capacity Humbert finds in his concluding pages to see Dolores as she really is, and by the jolt it gives readers to understand Humbert for what he has been until that point. The murder shows us the text has to be read again before it can be read properly the first time.
Nabokov likes to suggest that aesthetic creation borders on madness when it bears no relation to reality; his fictions value only those imaginations that are materially rooted, and cease to attribute value to imaginations that depart from reality. There is nothing that exists exclusively by reason of the imagination, or that does not exist in some phenomenal form. Killing Quilty is the novel's realization of an "intrinsically artistic" meeting place, a notion Nabokov sponsors often in his discursive writings. Art can be valid only if founded on precise knowledge; the blending of knowledge and imagination is achieved as a function of specific circumstances. "Quietly the fusion took place, and everything fell into order," explains Humbert, . . . "I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us" (L 299). We might recall the mischievous games with the word "real" in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and the discussion of "reality" in Ada. Lolita's dozen pages describing in gruesome closeup a murder that does not happen have their place in Nabokov's lexicon of metaphors for the deceptively complex, multi-layered dimensions in reading any narration of "reality".
*Lolita. New York: Vintage International, March 1989, used throughout.
Walter Comins-Richmond, Occidental College
During the last five years of his life, Xlebnikov devoted much of his creative energy toward the project "Doski sud'by" which, besides four excerpts published by Vladimir Markov, remains unknown. In this paper I describe and analyze the entire project, which is located at RGALI. "Doski sud'by" is in fact the culmination and synthesis of Xlebnikov's many literary and extraliterary experiments and represents an attempt at a comprehensive integration of all his theories concerning time, language, history, and mathematics. In addition, "Doski sud'by" reveals the mathematical foundations of much of his earlier poetic oeuvre which have hitherto gone unnoticed. In this sense, "Doski sud'by" is not only a unique transgeneric work, but also the key to understanding many aspects of Xlebnikov's artistic output. It represents a stage of his literary evolution beyond his sverxpovest' "Zangezi" generally considered his crowning achievement.
As a result of the Russians' defeat in the battle of Tsushima in 1905, Xlebnikov made the discovery of the laws of history his life's goal. He applied concepts from disparate fields in an attempt to predict and avoid future wars. Believing that rational language alone was insufficient to accomplish this task, he developed a poetic language that would provide a nonrational complement. At the same time Xlebnikov developed an eclectic mathematical system based upon linear equations that he hoped would predict rhythms in history. Thus, Xlebnikov's writings fall into three distinct generic categories: literary (poetry and prose), analytical (articles on language and history), and mathematical (complex equations occasionally accompanied by illustrations and telegraphic statements). In "Doski sud'by", Xlebnikov fuses these three genres into a single work in which mathematical expressions appear in literary prose, analytical articles transform into supernatural tales, and linear equations are described in poetic form, as well as many other combinations and syntheses.
Unlike the published excerpts, which provide a background to the project and charts of collated historical events, the unpublished volumes of "Doski sud'by" address specific aspects of Xlebnikov's project. For example, the first unpublished book, Odinochestvo, is concerned with the creation of a new type of "hyperword" that would assist in discovering the true nature of the relationship between time and space. In the next book, Glashataj, Xlebnikov uses poetry and mythological prose to demonstrate an inextricable bond between sound, numbers, and matter. In another excerpt, "Slovo o chisle i naoborot", Xlebnikov examines various world religions as precursors to his mathematical approach to predicting the future. In each case Xlebnikov creates texts that continually cross generic boundaries and ultimately defy classification.
Since a detailed analysis of all the books of "Doski sud'by" (approximately 1000 pages) is beyond the scope of a conference paper, I limit my discussion to: a general description of the entire text; a description of the major strategies Xlebnikov employs to fuse disparate genres; and an analysis of a representative passage from the seventh book, "Mera lik mira" (handouts will be provided).
Walter F. Kolonosky
It is easy to understand why Strolls with Pushkin and In the Shadow of Gogol' outraged critics in Russia as well as in emigre circles in the West (Nepomnyashchy, 29). It was not the first time that Sinjavskij spoke out against the canon or the canonized; moreover, it was not the first time that he was playful with literary assessment, displaying, like a Mennipean satirist, learned wit and what has been called "the free play of intellectual fancy" (Fry, 87). A close examination of Sinjavskij's study of Pushkin reveals not only a rejection of the terms of a more than 100-year-old legacy, but also a measure of provocation and teasing in the form of irreverent images, elliptical syntax, cryptic allusions, abrupt transitions and personal asides the stock in trade of a satirist. I would like to explore this kind of provocation, for it is the basis of turning literary analysis into "play and display" (Griffin, 71), into spectacle, vexing one reader and delighting another.
As in his fiction, Sinjavskij plays positions against a well established canon or an enduring myth. Imagine what drama he achieves by suggesting that Pushkin wrote about nothing in particular (66), or that Gogol' was suffering from hypochondria as well as delusions of grandeur (19). Without such positions there would be no basis for interplay and therefore no platform for launching a scholarly tour-de-force. Consider this kind of interplay when Sinjavskij suggests that Stalin (32) and Peter the Great (199) were poets. Sinjavskij's way of staging literary criticism is vital to his discourse, for the panoply of alarm and relief alone can alter the subject. In fact, staging criticism, that is, playing to one or another audience, is very Sinjavskian and very satirical.
Through this exploration I would like to comment not only on obviously "wired" elements (e.g., premise vs. counter premise, irrevent images, syntactical detours, coded words), but also on the construction of delicate or charged issues in several of Sinjavskij's post prison studies, including those about Zoshchenko and Remizov. Above all, I want to make a case for the relationship between Sinjavskij's literary criticism and his fiction, for they share the same erudition, the same irreverence and the same penchant for theatricalization.