Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004509, Mon, 18 Oct 1999 19:36:02 -0700

QUERY: Hairy Hermaphrodite in Lolita? (fwd)
Nothing for an entomologist to add to this one (see below) except that
most people seem
to limit the real possibilities to insects or spiders while, obviously,
centipedes would be another realistic possibility in the "world
entomological" (see my earlier comments); sorry I didn't read these all and
commented piecemeal.

Kurt Johnson

----- Original Message -----
From: Donald Barton Johnson <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu>
To: <NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu>
Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 1:34 PM
Subject: Re: QUERY: Hairy Hermaphrodite in Lolita? (fwd)

> From: Marilyn Edelstein <MEdelstein@scu.edu>
> >From Marilyn Edelstein
> In addition to the sexual connotations of the passage, already noted by
> several post-ers, in which the passage would allude to masturbation (in
> which, I suppose, a man might think of his hand as a "total stranger" to
> make the fantasy more "real"), there's the possibility that it refers to a
> dream that is "arousing" HH from slumber. If it were an allusion to a
> dream, it might also be a sly dig at Freud. So, if HH's guilt and anxiety
> regarding sex with Lolita were weighing on his unconscious (if not his
> conscience, or super-ego, as Freud called it), he might be repressing
> those in whch case they would need to emerge in dreams (or other
> expressions of the unconscious).
> So congress with a hermaphrodite (but not Aphrodite) might be an even
> more grotesque version of HH's own "perverse" taste for nymphets. And
> nymphets seem to exist on the border between pre-pubescence and
> pubescence, in which they are emerging from a somewhat androgynous state
> into a sexualized and gendered one as females (but not the sort of females
> like Charlotte, who HH loathes as full-sized, overly mature, over-ripe
> fleshy and anti-erotic creatures). So a Freudian could interpret HH as
> awaking from this weird dream caused by his desires and fears (since the
> passage doesn't say he was already awake and implies the "congress" woke
> him). And a reader well-versed in VN's oft-expressed anti-Freudianism
> might see VN as challenging readers to make something of this dream/scene.
> When I've discussed Lolita in class, at least once a student asked
> about this very passage, and I've suggested a range of possible meanings,
> including those suggested here and in the other postings re: masturbation
> (and even in an "insect" reading, it would seem more likely to be a spider
> than a mosquito). Marilyn Edelstein
> Beth Sweeney> 10/18/99 >>>
> ------------------ I posed this question to Zoran Kuzmanovich at the
> Cornell conference, but we could not resolve it to our (or at least my)
> satisfaction.
> In Part 1 of Lolita, at the very beginnning of Chapter 27 (p. 109 in the
> rev. ed. of The Annotated Lolita), Humbert says:
> "Finally, I did achieve an hour's slumber--from which I was aroused by
> gratuitous and horribly exhausting congress with a small hairy
> hermaphrodite, a total stranger."
> What's the literal meaning of this sentence? I had always assumed that
> Humbert was being bitten by a mosquito (it is August, after all), but my
> husband the biologist assures me that hermaphroditic insects are extremely
> rare. Nabokov, needless to say, knew his insects. Any ideas?
> Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
> Holy Cross College
> Worcester, MA 01610
> ssweeney@holycross.edu