Vladimir Nabokov

Rodgers, Michael. Nabokov’s Visceral, Cerebral, and Aesthetic Senses. 2020

Bibliographic title
Nabokov’s Visceral, Cerebral, and Aesthetic Senses
Publisher, city
Periodical or collection
The Five Senses in Nabokov's Works
Publication year
Sense takes many guises in Nabokov’s work, whether this be “common,” “moral,” “bodily,” or “aesthetic.” The idea of “cerebral” sense and (non)sense, however, are also integral features, especially when considering Nabokov’s wordplay. Looking predominantly at excerpts from Despair and Invitation to a Beheading, Rodgers argues that the apparent nonsense presented to us is offset by both visceral sense (in the form of pattern detection) and cerebral sense (in the form of cognitive challenge). This interplay between the visceral and cerebral senses, it is argued, engenders aesthetic sense, with the universal desire to puzzle-solve situated at the heart of our reading experience. The essay suggests that specific interpretative impasses in Nabokov’s work can be traversed by acknowledging the help provided from the corporeal senses of sight and sound.