Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Between us and artistic appreciation: Nabokov and the problem of distortion
by Tonn, James M., Ph.D., Princeton University, 2011, 170; 3481718
Abstract (Summary)

Vladimir Nabokov's view of art and life is confounded by a problem of “distortion,” wherein meaning and aesthetic value are obscured when information from a complex form of experience is presented in an inadequate medium (a situation that is analogous to the projection of a three-dimensional globe as a two-dimensional map). For example, Nabokov claims that a work of literature originates in a state of mind in which the author can appreciate all parts of the work and their interconnections simultaneously; but when it is written out as a linear text, the relationships among the parts are rendered indistinct. This dissertation focuses on Nabokov's preoccupation with distortion and his interest in the possibility of glimpsing what is beyond it. Chapter one describes in detail the attributes of distortion and its use in Nabokov's work as a literary device. The second chapter conceptualizes the source of distortion as situations in which a less-circumscribed “outer” level of experience is viewed from a more circumscribed “inner” one. The remainder of the dissertation deals with Nabokov's fascination with ways of looking at things so that aesthetic value can be apprehended in spite of distortion. Chapter three discusses a compulsion among some of Nabokov's characters to overcome distortion by identifying a piece of information that lends order to what is observed. The fourth chapter addresses Nabokov's efforts to achieve “manifold awareness,” a type of perception that resembles the simultaneous state of mind in which a work of literature is said to originate. This chapter also touches upon Nabokov's desire to escape from the constraints of time and space, which produce distortion by imposing distance and sequence on the events of life. The final chapter explains Nabokov's use of imagery of geometrical dimensions to depict vantage points from which multiple things may be viewed in juxtaposition with one another. Texts from Nabokov's entire literary career are addressed in this dissertation, demonstrating that the phenomena under discussion are a systematic concern of his work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hasty, Olga P.
Commitee: Chances, Ellen B., Emerson, Caryl, Wachtel, Michael
School: Princeton University
Department: Slavic Languages and Literatures
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Slavic literature
Keywords: Cosmic synchronization, Nabokov, Vladimir, Otherworld, Russia, Spatial form
Publication Number: 3481718
ISBN: 978-1-267-01137-4
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