NABOKV-L post 0026410, Wed, 2 Sep 2015 14:21:16 -0300

The Connected Enchanted Hunters of Mansfield Park & L_o_l_i_t_a

Former Postings:
1. “The Connected Enchanted Hunters of Mansfield Park & L_o_l_i_t_a”: This
is a follow up to my two recent posts about heretofore undiscovered veiled
allusions in Nabokov’s L_o_l_i_t_a: first, the covert theme of the sexual
abuse of Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s *Mansfield Park *symbolized by Mrs.
Norris accusing Fanny of scandalously “lolling … (A. Perlstein)
2. This seems to me to be a stretch. Certainly amateur theatricals are
central to Mansfield Park, but are they central enough to L----- to
constitute an allusion? One might just as well argue that L----- alludes to
the amateur theatricals in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream—for those
actually take place in the woods, are more explicitly sexual, have the
tragic death of a young woman, and, most of all, have enchantments. We know
that Nabokov, like all educated Russians, was deeply interested in
Shakespeare because Bend Sinister has a parody of Hamlet. (Eric Hyman)

Jansy Mello: Eric Hyman, these are important observations related to “a
stretch” (something “Über”) and overinterpretation *, particularly when you
mention the “enchantments” in both WS’s and VN’s plays. If we also accept
“overdetermination” in art (which is not related to overinterpretation…)
it’s fun to remember that VN’s allusions to Bacon in BS (in the debate
about Shakespeare and authorship), may also include a play about VN’s
genuine fondness of bacon…
It’s also amusing to remember what could be (or not!) a bit of nonsense from
Pale Fire: “Resemblances are the shadows of differences. Different people
see different similarities and similar differences.

Ron Rosenbaum often quotes V.Nabokov in his book “The Shakespeare Wars” and,
keeping this in mind, I enlisted google-help where I found another reference
by R.R related to VN’s deep interest in Shakespeare and his allusions to the
bard in various novels:
“ The Judge’s Rationale: Pale Fire is the most Shakespearean work of art the
20th century has produced, the only prose fiction that offers Shakespearean
levels of depth and complexity, of beauty, tragedy and inexhaustible
mystery. One of the achievements of Brian Boyd’s book is that he makes
explicit the profound way in which Pale Fire is a Shakespearean novel–not
just in its global vision and the infinite local reflections in a global eye
it offers, but also in the profound way in which Pale Fire is haunted by
specific works of Shakespeare, and by Shakespeare himself as Creator. If, as
Michael Woods (author of The Magician’s Doubts ) argues, Pale Fire offers “a
theology for skeptics,” Brian Boyd makes explicit the ways in which it is a
theology of Shakespeare. Read more at: <> -
From the VN-L archives, another reminder about Shakespeare: “Kinbote ...
cannot recognize the source of the Shakespearean phrase “pale fire.” He also
names for us... the trees he recognizes in “the famous avenue of all the
trees mentioned by Shakespeare” (C.47-48)... he does not recognize the hazel
that features in The Taming of the Shrew. (And that just after the initial
mention of “the famous avenue of all the trees mentioned by Shakespeare” in
C.47-48 comes the phrase “the hint of a haze.”) / ... Should we ignore
these? ... / Brian Boyd.


*Cf. Interpretation and Overinterpretation: World, History, Texts UMBERTO

Excerpts: On Hermetic semiosis: Once the mechanism of analogy has been set
in motion there is no guarantee that it will stop. The image, the concept,
the truth that is discovered beneath the veil of similarity, will in its
turn be seen as a sign of another analogical deferral. Every time one thinks
to have discovered a similarity, it will point to another similarity, in an
endless progress. In a universe dominated by the logic of similarity (and
cosmic sympathy) the interpreter has the right and the duty to suspect that
what one believed to be the meaning of a sign is in fact the sign for a
further meaning.[ ]
A semiotic analysis of such a complex notion as similarity (see my analysis
in A Theory of Semiotics) can help us to isolate the basic flaws of the
Hermetic semiosis and through it the basic flaws of many procedures of
overinterpretation. It is indisputable that human beings think (also) in
terms of identity and similarity. In everyday life, however, it is a fact
that we generally know how to distinguish between relevant, significant
similarities on the one hand and fortuitous, illusory similarities on the
other. We may see someone in the distance whose features remind us of person
A, whom we know, mistake him for A, and then realize that in fact it is B, a
stranger: after which — usually — we abandon our hypothesis as to the
person’s identity and give no further credence to the similarity, which we
record as fortuitous. We do this because each of us has introjected into him
or her an indisputable fact, namely, that from a certain point of view
everything bears relationships of analogy, contiguity, and similarity to
everything else. [ ] I think on the contrary that we can accept a sort of
Popper-like principle according to which if there are no rules that help to
ascertain which interpretations are the “best” ones, there is at least a
rule for ascertaining which ones are “bad.” We cannot say if the Keplerian
hypotheses are definitely the best ones but we can say that the Ptolemaic
explanation of the solar system was wrong because the notions of epicycle
and deferent violated certain criteria of economy or simplicity and could
not coexist with other hypotheses that proved to be reliable in order to
explain phenomena that Ptolemy did not explain. Let me for the moment assume
my criterion of textual economy without a previous definition of it.[ ]
This attitude toward sacred texts (in the literal sense of the term) has
also been transmitted — in secularized form — to texts which have become
metaphorically sacred in the course of their reception. It happened in the
medieval world to Virgil; it happened in France to Rabelais; it happened to
Shakespeare (under the banner of the “Bacon-Shakespeare controversy” a
legion of secret-hunters have sacked the texts of the Bard word by word,
letter by letter, to find anagrams, acrostics, or other secret messages
through which Francis Bacon might have made it clear that he was the true
author of the 1623 in-folio); and it is happening, maybe too much, to Joyce.
Such being the case, Dante could hardly have been left out.[ ] In theory,
one can always invent a system that renders otherwise unconnected clues
plausible. But in the case of texts there is at least a proof depending on
the isolation of the revelant semantic isotopy. Greimas defines isotopy as
“a complex of manifold semantic categories making possible the uniform
reading of a story.”[ ] Bets on the isotopy are certainly a good
interpretive criterion, but only as long as the isotopies are not too
generic. This is a principle which is valid also for metaphors. A metaphor
exists when we substitute a vehicle for the tenor on the basis of one or
more semantic traits common to both the linguistic terms: but if Achilles is
a lion because both are courageous and fierce, we would be inclined to
reject the metaphor Achilles is a duck if it were justified on the basis of
the principle that both are bipeds. Few others are as courageous as Achilles
and the lion, whereas far too many others are bipeds like Achilles and the
duck. A similarity or an analogy, whatever its epistemological statute, is
important if it is exceptional, at least under a certain description. An
analogy between Achilles and a clock based on the fact that both are
physical objects is of no interest whatsoever….(And a lot more)

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