Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004986, Fri, 7 Apr 2000 12:07:31 -0700

Abstract of Maxim Shrayer's paper at the VN CENTENNIAL Conference
(Paris, Nov. 1999)
To: Donald Barton Johnson <chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu>

Maxim D. Shrayer (Boston College)



My paper explores Nabokov's attitudes to woman
authors as expressed in his fictional, discursive
and epistolary writings. As we know from Nabokov's
correspondence, in the early 1930s he was
particularly interested in what one might call
"gender-response criticism" and read many works by
contemporary female authors. Three main topics will
be considered. First, I examine Nabokov's comments
on and reviews of works by Russian émigré female
writers, including Ekaterina Bakunina, Nina
Berberova, Irina Odoevtseva, and Marina Tsvetaeva
and others. Second, I inquire into Nabokov's very
negative reactions to twentieth-century Western
female authors, and especially to such English
writers as Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield.
Third, at the heart of my paper lies an analysis of
two short fictions, the satirical Admiralty Spire"
(1933) and the feuilletonistic "A Slice of Life"
(1935). Reminiscent of Nabokov's scathing reviews
of female novelists and poets, "Admiralty Spire"
bridges his poetics and his biography. While among
the least successful of Nabokov's works, "A Slice of
Life" is important as Nabokov's only experiment with
creating a female narrator. Possibly explaining why
Nabokov's considered Woolf's Orlando an example of
first-rate poshlost', both stories also playfully
debunk the conventional distinctions among such
notions as "a female author," "a female persona,"
and "a female voice/narrator."

Maxim D. Shrayer
Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages
Boston College
Lyons Hall 210
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3804 USA

e-mail: shrayerm@bc.edu
tel. (617) 552-3911
fax. (617) 552-2286