Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004532, Mon, 1 Nov 1999 08:34:42 -0800

Re: Nabokov and Foucalt Philosphy (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Suh, Michael (M&C)" <MSuh@exchange.ML.com>
Matt Smith's question was whether Humbert/Nabokov references Foucault's
philosophy in _Lolita_. To which the answer is a simple no, as the Editor
points out. It's irrelevant to this question whether Foucault might be
"useful" in "exploring" some elements of Nabokov's work.

To whom, exactly, this would be useful is still another question.

Michael Suh, Member, NABOKV-L

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Donald Barton Johnson [SMTP:chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu]
> Sent: Sunday, October 31, 1999 6:30 PM
> To: NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu
> Subject: Nabokov and Foucalt Philosphy (fwd)
> Dear Don and others,
> Whether or not Nabokov read Michel Foucault's work, he was part of a
> European culture and moment that included Foucault (born a couple of
> decades later than Nabokov). Foucault's well-known book _Madness and
> Civilization_ was published in 1965, and it's certainly not impossible
> that VN might have read it or at least heard it being discussed.
> And whether or not a creative writer reads a philosopher or historian of
> ideas or theorist (all of which Foucault was) isn't the only question in
> deciding whether that theorist's work might usefully illuminate some
> features of that writer's work.
> This is just to say that, while Matt Smith's comment, included in the
> attached exchange, doesn't include a very clear summary of Foucault's
> ideas (and Smith acknowledges that he doesn't know Foucault's work), some
> of Foucault's ideas about society, sexuality, madness, prisons,
> subjectivity, etc. may be useful for exploring some elements of VN's work.
> Foucault was interested in how societies and discourses function in part
> by exclusion of what is perceived as "deviant" or "abnormal." How did the
> discourse of madness as an illness to be treated medically arise? Why did
> prisons arise? How did European ideas and discourses about sexuality
> (both "proper" and "improper") arise from the Greek, Roman,
> Judeo-Christian roots of European culture?
> I can't imagine that VN wouldn't have been interested in such
> questions--even if his answers might have differed wildly from Foucault's
> (and Foucault's ideas are always speculative rather than definitive).
> Given VN's use of "deviant" sexuality" and prisons as motifs in his work,
> some of Foucault's ideas on these might indeed be relevant.
> Marilyn Edelstein, Assoc. Prof. of English, Santa Clara U
> (and, since Don seems to want such info., author of an early essay on
> _Pale Fire_, a dissertation of which almost half was devoted to VN, giver
> of several papers at MLA sessions on VN and elsewhere on VN's work, now
> completing two Lolita articles; also teacher of both literature and
> contemporary critical theory). medelstein@scu.edu
> -------------------------
> On Sat, 30 Oct 1999, Matt Smith wrote:
> > A friend recently pointed me in the direction of Foucalt Philosophy on
> > social order etc. In which he states that all sexual perversions are
> > associated with mental disorder because our society creates such a
> > world. My question is, did Humbert/Nabokov reference this within
> > Lolita? It sounded like something Humbert would love such a philosopher
> >
> > -Matt Smith
> >
> The issue of "perversion" and "madness" as socially defined (if
> not created) has been raised by readers of LOLITA. I doubt that VN had
> this in mind and, even more, that he was a fan of Foucault -- unless
> perhaps it was the one with the Pendulum.