NABOKV-L post 0026560, Thu, 22 Oct 2015 18:59:15 -0700

Re: BIB: On the name "Lolita"
Dear ED SES,

The name Lolita then, if you are correct and you seem to be, takes on
a unique status within the novel - more than has previously been
imagined. How does this influence how you feel about the possibility
that VN had indeed read the earlier Lichberg "Lolita" tale as argued
by Michael Maar? To me it suggests a reinforcement of that possibility.


On Oct 21, 2015, at 8:20 PM, NABOKV-L, English wrote:

Dear List,

In response to Jansy's recent post on the source of the nickname
"Lolita," I wanted to mention my article in a special issue of the
online journal Miranda, "Lolita, I Presume: On a Character Entitled
'Lolita,'" in which I concur with Jansy that this name, in the novel
at least, seems to be Humbert's own name for Dolores--and one, in
fact, that he uses almost entirely in his narration and not in his
actual interactions with her.

Here's the abstract:

This essay focuses on the problem of naming the heroine of Nabokov’s
famous novel. From the very beginning, her name is both overdetermined
and indeterminate. As the novel proceeds, she is designated by an
increasing number of diminutives, aliases, and misnomers, even as her
own perspective remains elusive. Humbert calls her by various names—
for example, “Lo” at home, “Dolly” with her friends and teachers, and
“Dolly Schiller” after her marriage—but reserves “Lolita” to signal
her role in his fantasies and memories. As a result, “Lolita” comes to
represent not the novel’s heroine, but rather her construction as a
nymphet within Humbert’s imagination. How she would choose to name
herself is unclear—she signs her letter to Humbert, for example, as
“Dolly (Mrs. Richard F. Schiller)” (266)—but it would certainly not be
as “Lolita”. And yet, until very recently, reviewers and critics
always referred to her by Humbert’s pet name, as if there were no
difference between the actual child and her role in his fantasies—or,
indeed, her afterlife in his memoir. “Lolita” comes to represent not
only Humbert’s imaginary construction of a nymphet but also his
desperate attempts to make that construction permanent within his
text. The fact that most readers still refer to the novel’s heroine as
“Lolita” suggests that Humbert’s efforts have generally succeeded.


Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

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